On New Year’s Day, one of India’s biggest entertainers, Rambo Circus, will open their tent to audiences. It will be at the same place, Navi Mumbai’s Airoli, where COVID-19 had brought down the curtains for them in March. On offer are a host of new acts, such as an artist balancing a 20 ft pole on his head on which another performer carries out a number of feats. In another act, a Human Fountain drinks water of two colours and regurgitates each colour separately. Roller skating, incredible performances on wheels and trapeze acts have been designed to showcase human dexterity as well as dispel the gloom of the pandemic with a sense of wonder. The performances are scheduled till January 31. Some of the acts were presented at Mumbai’s prestigious Prithvi theatre
“What was important for me was the happiness in the faces of the artistes when they were rehearsing and presenting the acts. It did not matter how many audience members were there. For most of 2020, they had been stagnating and, now, suddenly their faces have lit up. An artiste needs to perform,” says Sujit Dilip, owner of the circus. Rambo Circus’s determination to keep the show going becomes laudable in the background of circuses across the world facing financial crisis. The Montreal-based Cirque Du Soleil, which is a global institution, filed for bankruptcy protection in June and, now, Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas has uploaded their best Cirque Du Soleil shows on their website for free.
Rambo Circus was among the first, globally, to adapt. When BookMyShow created an online show by filming the live acts, it became a high-grosser with thousands of tickets sold. “We got to reach people at home during COVID. Whatever we earned went to the staff before they went home for Dusshera and Diwali,” says Sujit. Many of the artistes who left have not returned as their families are worried about the pandemic. Some have used the earnings to buy auto-rickshaws and have turned into drivers while others have started small eateries.
The new shows have a number of seasoned artistes of Rambo Circus as well as performers from other circuses that have shut down during the pandemic. “Even after trains started operating, we could not get tickets to bring these artists from across the country to Mumbai and some had to be flown down so that we could create a show,” says Sujit.
He was in Russia in December, when the pandemic began, and immediately introduced the practice of disinfecting hands in his shows in India. At the beginning of the performances, the audience would be informed about the importance of regular hand washing and COVID-19 precautions even before the new disease spread across the country. Now, Sujit has designed the winter season with health protocols in place. A clown with a whistle will control the crowds and get them to stay socially distant. The 2,000-capacity tent will have 400 chairs placed at suitable length from one another. Masks and sanitisers have been ordered keeping in mind the delicate skin of children. It is an attempt for Rambo Circus to begin the year with a smile.
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