Growing up in Jabalpur, Hari Mahidhar was fascinated by the tigers and lions at a local circus. “Thanks to the government, we don’t see the animals anymore, but the artistes have beautiful body language, perfect coordination and timing. They perform show after show, without retakes,” he asserts.
Mahidhar is revisiting his childhood with a collection of 54 pictures that represent the dying art of acircus as he remembers it from his younger days. “I’ve shot the pictures in black and white because they represent hazy memories of days gone by. I’d like people to forget how old they are and go back to being wide-eyed children when they come to my exhibition,” he smiles. “The circus is on its way out because kids are too preoccupied with electronics and digital media.”
Expressing his wish to document circuses before they cease to exist, Mahidhar approached three of them for permission. “I didn’t want to show the living conditions of the artistes and give it a negative angle. I wanted to focus on the positives of the performances, and include young boys and girls. I’ve approached the subject from a child’s point of view,” he explains.
The photographer admits Raj Kapoor and his film, Mera Naam Joker (1970), was the inspiration behind the project. “He is my guru and his song ‘Ae bhai zara dekh ke chalo…’ offers a philosophical take on the lives of circus artistes. I thought this would be a fitting tribute to him as well as these performers."
3 Hours… Memories of a Time Gone By is on display at Jehangir Terrace Art Gallery from May 18-24.