Behind the scenes of a circus
The Hindu Managing 250 people and 30 animals under the same tent is no joke. Some snapshots from a day at Gemini Circus — Photo: V. Ganesan
by Meera Srinivasan
CHENNAI, January 20, 2013
On Saturday, an hour before the 1 p.m. show at Gemini Circus, all is not well at the horse shed.
The animals stand in a row, most of them calmly swaying their tails to shoo flies away, but there is a visibly upset member, registering protest with a shrill gallop.
“How many times have I said that someone has to be with the horses?” shouts C.P. Prabhakaran, senior manager at the circus, as a caretaker hurriedly jumps into the enclosure. Managing 250 people and 30 animals that share the same space is far from easy.
“But they are like family now,” he says. Mr. Prabhakaran, who has worked with various circus troupes over four decades, joined Gemini Circus 10 years ago.
A happy man, he says the future of the traditional circus is not remotely bleak. “No matter how many new avenues of entertainment come up, the circus will always have its charm. It’s not often that one sees live performances with such variety,” he says.
Gemini Circus — founded by K. Sahadevan and V. Shankaran in 1951 — has survived in the entertainment business this long, precisely due to that, he says.
A row of small tents have been pitched along the circular periphery of the giant circus tent on SIAA Grounds. This is where the performers live during their stint in the city. The circus is in Chennai for three months this time.
It is like second home, the performers say. “If you ask me, this is home. We never stay this long even in our hometowns,” says Tanya Tiwari, a 29-year-old trapeze artiste from Jharkhand.
A winner on a couple of reality shows on television, she was promised a chance in movies. “I don’t know if I will ever get a call from them, but even if I do, I will never quit the circus,” she says, drying clothes outside the tent.
For most performers like her, the day begins at 6 a.m. “We have a rigorous fitness regime and rehearsals every day. Otherwise, the body will lose its flexibility,” she says.
Mukesh Tiwari, who she met at the circus and got married to, is also trained in acrobatics.
Dressed in a white bodysuit that accentuates his toned torso and biceps, and a shiny, magenta brief, he smiles at his wife before proceeding for a few, quick chin-ups on an iron bar nearby.
“At times, it seems there is no permanence in our lives. We perform in one city, then pack up and go somewhere else to do the same thing all over again. But despite that, there is something wonderful about this job. The pay is satisfactory. But importantly, people have a good time watching us and I love that feeling,” Ms. Tanya says.
Gemini Circus will be on till February-end with everyday shows at 1 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. For more details, visit www.geminicircus.in