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Snapshots of life outside the ring

Four Kenyans in bicycle shorts taking a breather in a squalid room with cluttered straw beds and a wide mosquito net.

Written by Anjuly Mathai | Mumbai | Published:October 29, 2009 11:17 pm

Express photographer Arul Horizon captures the lives of circus performers

Four Kenyans in bicycle shorts taking a breather in a squalid room with cluttered straw beds and a wide mosquito net. Russian artiste Alexei sits in a halo of smoke,puffing a cigarette before going onstage. Half a dozen women in the women’s quarters are gathered around a television set with transfixed expressions on their faces.

They all have one thing in common: the Rambo Circus. When the circus set up tents in different corners of the country,Indian Express  photojournalist Arul Horizon tracked the artistes from Pune to Surat for four years and captured their stories. His photographs titled Off the Rings are displayed at the Piramal Gallery in NCPA till November 1.

“I’ve always been fascinated by circus performers,” says Horizon. “When I was a kid I wanted to be one of them.” According to Horizon,their stories largely remain untold as it is difficult for photographers to gain access to the tents,which he managed with a lot of difficulty. “I was the crazy guy with the camera who would go in and out of tents even at midnight.”

In one photograph,Horizon zooms in on the tense expression on the face of a trapeze artiste who,for the viewers,is just a swinging speck in the sky. “I was hoisted on a rope by the performers where I hung on for three hours to get a bird’s eye shot of the trapeze artiste,” says Horizon. “It was an extremely difficult shot as you have to hold the camera with one hand and rope is continually shaking.”

Beyond the glitz and glamour of the circus,says Horizon,these are ordinary people plied with problems. “They don’t even have basic amenities like ration cards,bank accounts or passports. Children of foreign artistes are denied a nationality and hence lack basic rights like primary education.”

The show was inaugurated by Oscar-winning sound recordist Resul Pookutty,who thanked the photographer for showing lives of people who were frozen by time.

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