There were many things that went through my mind when I went to The Great Bombay Circus a week ago. Not something that could be classified under nostalgia but nevertheless a kind of almost childish expectation. Would it be the same things that I saw as a child? All that stayed in my memory as a child was the distinct smell of the animals and the colourful tents. As the series of activities unfolded here, it was a feeling of deja vu – the clowns, the elephants and camels, the dog show, pretty girls doing dangerous stunts, the cycle show and the motorcycle riders.
But unlike the last time – my current visit to the circus left me thinking. For this time I did not see the happily painted faces of the clowns. I was wondering about what lies behind those smiles. I saw not just the sporty elephant or the graceful camel – but saw instead their lack of strength and their worn out visages.
I was not excited about the acrobatics of the young boy who jumped through the hoop, but felt bad that he was on display. Same goes for the dog strutting around with the umbrella.
The bikers in the globe caught not my fancy, but their earnest prayers did. They start each show not knowing if this would be their last.
The stunt master on the cycle and the quick gun Murugan were people who obviously possessed great calibre, but all I saw were middle-aged men trying to earn their daily bread. Call me a cynic if you will, but what struck me was the apathy of the audience through every act. There were no gasps of excitement, no immediate applause and no faces bathed in admiration that one would expect. People continued to mollycoddle their children, focus on taking pictures of themselves, and buying more and more snacks to keep them going through the show.
At the end of the day – these are artistes who possess some kind of great physical and mental skills that we ” normal” people do not. Why not give them the attention and recognition they deserve? What stops us from clapping our hands wholeheartedly and calling for an encore? Why are there cat-calls but no appreciative whistles?
Variete artistes around the world are an appreciated lot. Our artistes are nothing short of that. But we the audience behave like the crowd watching gladiators battle it out for their life in the roman arena. Serious business for them. But Entertainment for us.
I ask of nothing more but that this indifference would cease to exist. And that brings me to the end of my thoughts on “The Great Bombay Circus”