CIRCUSES ARE a fast vanishing breed and Rajkamal Circus, which has survived this long against all odds, too, is on its last legs.
A combination of factors like modern entertainment sources and ban on several animals have caused this slow death of circuses. As a consequence, there are only about 15 big circuses including Raymonds and Apollo.
And if things don’t improve, which seems very likely, Rajkamal too would wind up soon. Rajkamal Circus owner M Prabhakaran, whose group made a few days’ stopover in Indore en route to Mumbai, is quite clear about the future.
Prabhakaran, a father of two daughters, wants to educate his daughter and motivates them to become qualified professionals. “I would never want my daughters to be part of the circus. There is no further scope here.”
Prabhakaran (47) whose family has been in the business for decades, says, “Now a days we hardly break even. The daily meal of hippopotamus costs Rs 750 to Rs 1,000. On an average around 100 artists are employed in my circus of which a junior artist gets Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 along with accommodation (tents) and food, while a senior artist is accommodated in a rented flat and is paid around Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000. Other staff like security guard a veterinary doctor, driver and other labourers for different works’.
“The average daily expense comes to about Rs 50,000 and the earnings are about Rs 1 lakh on peak days like Sundays or public holidays or during festive season. On other days it is just about Rs 50,000. Sometime it becomes hard to manage the budget when circus faces losses, but however you have to feed everybody there and the show must go on,” he says.
Remembering the 70s and 80s, which was considered the golden age of circus, Prabhakaran says that previously the rate of tickets were kept low according to the place but the response at that time was fabulous. A circus in that period used to have around 60 animals including around 25 lions and number of elephants, horses, monkeys and rabbits. ‘‘Today we have merely five elephants, a hippopotamus, a macaw and six horses.’’
Prabhakaran also blames the government for the present state of affairs. He says, “In foreign countries circus artists are considered proper artists, but here people treat them as jokers and humiliate them.
It really hurts when you are treated that way which is why people do not like to join circus. In countries like Russia and China there are diploma courses in circus and auditoria are constructed for their premiere shows. But here in India we have to take shelter in a ground facing all the natural calamities that causes loss of huge amount of money.”
Prabhakaran, who has been with circus for past 30 years, and hails from Telichery in Kerala adds, “We have to spend a lot of money to keep ourselves updated and trained. We even invite instructors from Ukraine and China to train our artists for performances of international standards. It has become really hard to survive in this business.”
But there are still some in the circus who love being a circus artist. Like Man Singh, the ringmaster, who hails from Jodhpur (Rajasthan). Ask him how he got into the business and he proudly says, ‘‘my father was also a ringmaster. I used to play along with elephants, lions and other animals in my childhood and enjoyed it a lot. Gradually I got fascinated towards it and left my studies after class X. Since then I am here along with my friends.”
Man Singh too admits that circus cannot take care of all the needs of a family. Prabhakaran says, ‘Despite all problems, we have to keep the circus alive because we have to take care of the artists who would face unemployment because they do not know other skills and many of them are illiterate’. On a pessimistic note Prabhakaran adds that he may wind up the circus in a decade’s time. Until then, the show must go on.