Big Top’s Top Four
Prof. Vishnupant Chatre: A master of equestrian arts and singing, he is known as the father of the Indian circus. Born in Ankalkop, Maharashtra, he started out as a horse trainer with the Raja of Kuruduwad. Chatre once visited William Chirini’s Italian Circus with the Raja in Mumbai where Chirini mocked that Indians would have to wait for several years before they could start a circus. This motivated Chatre to organise a circus of his own. And it held its first show in 1880.
Keeleri Kunhikkannan: He was known as the father of the circus in Kerala. When Chatre’s circus came to Tellicherry, Keeleri and Chatre reached an agreement under which Keeleri would teach students gymnastic feats and Chatre would employ them. Keeleri imparted the first lessons in 1888. Keeleri’s nephew started the White Way Circus in 1924.
Damoo Dhotre: One of the most famous animal trainers in the world, he was hailed as the Indian prince of the Ringling Brothers circus during the 1930s. He got even the wildest of the wild cats to bow to his command.
Prof Damodara: In the early ’30s, he started as a showman with his two-pole tent touring villages and towns. In the coming years, he promoted the three ring circus for the first time in Asia. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru honoured him for his outstanding contribution to the entertainment industry.