Monday, February 16, 2009

Bigtop backyard

The circus is not what it used to be. The government banned lions and tigers from performing in travelling circuses a few years ago and that was one of the last nails in a coffin that seems to be waiting for the final one. The ban no doubt helped hundreds of the big cats to be rescued from a life where they were caricatures of their natural self; at the same time, it brought down even those companies where the animals were being treated with care. Today's circuses do not offer much by way of wildlife, depending on human skills to keep the audience enthralled.

And there are still many who are in awe of the performers. Acrobats and gymnasts in their glittering costumes, the dare-devil motorcycle riders defying gravity and motion-sickness as they spin around inside a globe, the clowns trying hard to be funny: there is still an audience that takes them all in. In Chennai, that audience knows where to go when a circus is in town. Shows have always been at the South India Athletics Association ground, no matter which company is putting it up. Once the cirucus comes to Chennai, it takes a while for it to go back; with high cost of transport for the human and animal performancers, and the set up costs at a new location, the circus stays on in a city for at least three months.

The picture here is the backyard of the Gemini Circus, currently on at the SIAA grounds in Chennai. One of the old-time companies - Gemini had its first performance on Independence Day in 1951 - it still struggles to find ways to meet costs, while competing with movies, TV and the X-boxes. Away from the crowds, the glitter is gone, just the dull grey remains!


LVISS said...

As an animal lover I no more enjoy these animals performing stunts.They give them good before they perfect their acts.

Shantaram said...

@ Ravindran: That's what got them shut down, finally.