The end of an era: Mysuru watches the last performance of a circus

With all the entertainment that a smart TV and a smart Mobile provide, it will be indeed take a mental circus to recall the thrill, the suspense and the laughs that an actual circus experience provided. Uday Kumar laments the demise of the art and culture of circuses in this article focussed on the Great Bombay Circus which has been in existence for close to a century.

The Great Bombay Circus which set up its tent in Mysuru last month, has entertained thousands of people in the past with their animals, skills, tricks, acrobatic and hilarious performances. Indeed, the Circus has been entertaining audiences across the country for the last 98 years. However now, due to a lack of support from government and audiences, the Great Bombay Circus plans to shut down after its centenary two years hence. For the people of Mysuru, this was the last chance to see the Great Bombay Circus artistes in action.

The Great Bombay Circus which had set up its tent at the Horse Riding Grounds near Karanji Lake in Nazarbad concluded its final performance in Mysuru on October 25. Everyday saw three shows - 1pm, 4pm and 7pm. Locals as well as tourists from rural areas thronged the circus, after learning it just might be the final performance of a live circus in the city.

This time around there were mind-blowing acrobatic performances from Ethiopian and Chineseartistes who came to Mysuru for the first time and indeed, perhaps the last time, given that the circus plans to wind up after two years. The four artistes from Ethiopia were quite a hit in Mysuru. More than 100 artistes were seen performing during the nearly two hour circus performances.

“Due to a lack of support from the government it has become very difficult to run the circus. Everythinghas become expensive. Already Gemini and Royal circus have stopped functioning and after two more years we too have decided to stop the Great Bombay Circus. In Mysuru this will be our last performance”, Sanjeev, proprietor of Great Bombay Circus told me before the final performance of the Great Bombay Circus.

After withdrawing the wild animal acts due to conservation laws and activism – tigers, lions and last year the elephant- they tried to compensate the audiences with other skill based acts, but they found that audiences especially the children mainly throng the circuses to see the animals in action. This plus the advent of technology and television has resulted in a drop in audiences for the Circus.

Nagaraj, who had come all way from Chamarajanagar to see the circus said “It’s not fair on the part of the government to take back all the wild animals. When the elephants can be used by the forest department to transport timber why can’t they allow elephants for circus needs – here it is not abused, but used only to attract. It’s really harsh treatment on part of the government. It was the circus which introduced wild elephants to people, especially to rural people”.

One of the most exciting acts of a circus probably is when the clowns dressed in funky attire arrive and instantly send the audience into peals of laughter. Tulsidas Choudary the oldest artiste at the Great Bombay circus has been doing just that. He had his first brush with the circus when he was just 13 years old. Now, 73, he wants to end his life in the circus environment itself for he says, it has given him everything name, fame, and everything else. But he says“I am not sure if I will get the opportunity to do so”. He too is concerned about the fate of the circus which a few decades back was a crowd puller and every show jam packed.

“After the ban on wild animals including the elephant, the artistes are taking all sort of risk to entertain and attract the crowd but still the crowds are not coming in on expected lines” added Tulisidas who also acted in films like Mera Naam Joker, Killers, Dhairav, and Yelamharivu. ‘I got an opportunity to dance with Helen and also got to act with Dara Singh in Killers.

In 2008 Tulsidas had to undergo a kidney surgery and was advised to take a break from work. “I can’t be without the circus that’s the reason even when I was told to take rest I requested the proprietor of the circus to give permission to me to continue my act in the circus. The proprietor accepted my request and for past eight years I am continuing to do my level best to entertain the people who come to the circus. I can’t think of life without the circus as it has given me everything; Jeena Yahan, Marna Yahan, Iske Siwa Jaana Kahan,” added Tulsidas.

It’s a sentiment that many would echo, for there is nothing that can beat the thrill of a live circus!


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