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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Juggling the Covid battle, Pune circus takes its magic online

Rambo, one of India’s biggest and oldest circuses, is fighting back the Covid-19 pandemic by taking an hour-long show – “Life is a circus – An Ode to the Greatest Showmanship” – online. It is, possibly, the first circus in India to do so.

Written by Arul Horizon, Dipanita Nath | Pune | Updated: August 29, 2020 11:07:01 am
pune coronavirus latest updates, pune covid-19, pune Rambo Circus, pune covid cases, pune Rambo Circus online, pune city newsThe making of a digital circus. (Photo: Arul Horizon)

Rambo Circus has opened its colourful tent to the outside world. Without leaving your home, you can watch acrobats perform mind-boggling stunts, trapeze artistes flying overhead, clowns, jugglers, contortionists and giants on stilts.

Rambo, one of India’s biggest and oldest circuses, is fighting back the Covid-19 pandemic by taking an hour-long show – “Life is a circus – An Ode to the Greatest Showmanship” – online. It is, possibly, the first circus in India to do so.

Tickets went on sale on Friday on BookMyShow and streaming will begin September 25. “The circus was one of the favourite outings for children and the entire families a few decades ago. Children, especially those born in the 1980s and 1990s, will have fond memories of going to the circus. With isolation becoming the new norm, we are trying to reinvent the experience of watching a circus online for a new generation of children and adults,” said Sujit Dilip, owner of Rambo Circus.

For his team of artistes, the transition online was a new experience of performing for cameras instead of crowds, choreographing movements to sounds and lights and, at times, hanging in there for hours until a scene was perfect.

Rambo Circus comprises 60 artistes. “Around February-March, 40 people had gone home for Holi, as happens every year,” Dilip said. “When the pandemic spread through India, and the lockdown was announced (from March 25), many of our artistes were still home. They are sitting idle now. Many circuses have closed down and will never reopen. We are supporting all these artistes, and those from Rambo Circus as well.”

Every day, Dilip receives calls from many of these artistes. “I hope our online show works out well and we can support our artistes. One of our main problems is that circus artistes are not recognised by the Culture Ministry or any other government department,” he said.

The show is scripted as a journey through time, depicted through an array of circus acts — from the founding of the circus by P T Dilip on January 26, 1991, to its struggles, innovations to keep pace with the changing entertainment trends, and achievements such as national and foreign tours. Rambo Circus, Dilip pointed out, has been honoured by Pune Municipal Corporation for its work, and has represented India in World Circus Day Celebration, 2011, at Monte Carlo, where it presented a documentary on the history of Indian circus.

The final scenes will combine the “best of acts” and will be dedicated to Covid Warriors. A special message from the Rambo Circus artistes will go out to them.

Before the pandemic, the circus was collaborating with a company that was going to help it upgrade. Dilip said he had plans to travel to Russia to look for suitable people and to Italy for technical help on structural designing.

Then the pandemic struck. “I could only go to Russia. Our main motto was to improve the standards of the Indian circus. I had invested all my money in research work…” he said.

A fundraiser helped raise some money before National Laqshya Live Experiences approached them with the idea to go digital, Dilip said. “The planning took place on Zoom for two or three months. It is due to their initiative that we were able to do this online show. The moment the lockdown eased, we started shooting,” he said.

Dinesh Shetty, founder, Production Crew Entertainment Pvt Ltd, another collaborator in the project, said they aim to take the age-old circus experience online, “with the artistes coming into your homes and making you laugh”.

Coming up as soon as the pandemic ends, when people can safely step out for a live experience, is a dream reality that Rambo Circus is working on, Dilip said. “It will be a huge technology upgrade with animatronics, projection mapping, 3D and other special effects,” he said. “The creation will be such that you would feel people are flying. We are on it. The day the government tells us to open, we will need 90-120 days for upgrade.” And it will be magic, he promises.

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