Ever since I can remember, I have visited the circus in many towns and cities of India. Right from Gemini Circus, Rambo Circus to the famous Russian Circus when they came to Kolkata in the ‘80s.
The circus is entirely something else. It’s a different life; distinctive genre altogether that sadly gets muffled in the glitz and limelight of the other art forms. It is another form of mass media/ folklore, where people travelled from far corners of the country to showcase their talents and introduce the locals to a whole new world of magic and imagination. A circus was one of the most exciting art forms when the world of television, the Internet or the digital age was not even thought of.
My 6-year-old had never seen a circus and would not believe me when I would tell her about some of the unbelievable stunts we’ve watched as children. It was also the time when the circus used animals. Using tigers, elephants and lions in the circus was a huge attraction for the audience. Sadly, owing to the poor living conditions and maintenance of the animals, circuses were banned from using them in their stunts and that’s how the spotlight from the circus gradually shifted away.
While I was scouting around things to do over the Internet, I spotted a bright red and yellow banner, which read ‘Rambo Circus’, coming to Mumbai from 9th January 2019 onwards. I waited patiently for the next few days for the tickets and bought them and took my daughter along.
I remember years ago, I was going through this stunning black and white photo feature on the circus artists. Personally, for me, black and white photography is one of the most remarkable and timeless mediums to tell a story irrespective of the subject. It’s got the power to stay with you in your subconscious for years. That’s the impact I had after going through that black and white photo feature almost aeons ago. It’s a pity, I have no reminisced of the brilliant photographer and the magazine, but his photographs remained with me in my mind and I hoped that someday I too would click pictures of a circus.
After almost a couple of decades later, I finally got an opportunity on 9th January this year thanks to Rambo Circus – to capture their super star circus performers through my camera lens. I carried my DSLR along and with my 6-year-old and a friend; we sat through almost two hours of the show cheering for the performers and their acts.
A circus is a complete package – it’s got drama, comedy, thrill, action, and romantic interludes – overall a complete package. I think I can safely call the performers and the staff the ‘real superstars’. I was in awe as I watched them perform all the acts live on stage, with or without props, and how they carried the brand and the ethos of a circus on their shoulders. While some make you laugh at their own expense, some make you cringe or be awestruck when you watch them perform dangerous acts and stunts.
One of the most incredible aspects I noticed about the circus performers is the amount of faith and trust they have in each other, especially while performing some tough and dangerous acts. They just know that their partner or team member is there to back them up. Also, since it was the first day, first show, during a weekday evening, in spite of a paltry crowd, the Rambo Circus superstars performed their act with finesse and complete dedication and even took a bow on all sides even where the seats were empty. I liked their spirited attitude that in spite of the number of audiences being less, they performed their act with zest and enthusiasm. Numbers didn’t seem to matter to them, they just enjoyed and loved their own work and their focus is clear, to entertain the audience.
Unlike in a film, where we see the final package, the circus presents to you their art and craft in its real form. It may not have the perfection or finishing touches, but I think that’s what makes it all the more remarkable. Life is real, it’s not perfect, and that’s what a circus brings with it. You accept it in all its flaws and imperfections, and I think, that’s what makes it so beautiful and breathtaking.
You see their mistakes during the acts, while the audience may sound critical, the performers take it in their stride and redo the act until they get it right. I was amazed at one woman performing an act, where she had to get this football on top of a tall iron prop while lying on her back and balancing the tower on her foot. She kept at it as the ball fell several times, until she got the ball on top and we all cheered. Human effort is exactly like this; we keep trying until we get it right.
I think, unlike the cinema (I love watching films, mind you), I did feel that a circus is more real and true to life. It shows us what it is. I really liked how each one of the performers worked as a team, and doubled up as an extra helping hand after their act to help a fellow colleague. I am sure they have hard days and may feel discouraged when the expectant crowd don’t turn up in numbers, yet they put up a smile and their shiny costumes and come out to perform. Here the focus is on the talent and skill and not on physical beauty. At times, what the world may think of a shortcoming, might be a talent in a circus with the power to inspire or entertain the same people who criticised them at the very beginning. A circus makes things possible, embraces the shortcomings and flaws and turns it into a talent.
Such camaraderie, team spirit and optimism is rare to find and I came back home humbled and inspired as so many of these real-life heroes who entertained us with their raw yet beautiful talent.
Thank you Rambo Circus for such a brilliant show.
**Please note, this is not a promotional article. However, you can always catch their shows in Mumbai, they’re performing in Borivali (W) at the BMC Grounds in Chikuwadi till the 17th of February. For more photographs, please visit our official Facebook page.