Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Big Top

One fine day, S said, "Let's go to the circus"!

I don't like circuses for two reasons: 1. Long long time ago,  I had read news about a circus tent burning down (seriously, I think I heard too many such "drama-in-real-life" stories when I was younger. Either that or I am paranoid) and since then have harbored a fear of going to circuses in tents. 2. I don't like watching animals perform.

Still, S looked like a kid talking about a trip to the candy shop whenever he spoke about the circus and I gamely decided to accompany him. We reserved our tickets over the phone and headed out last weekend.

We entered a dusty ground and parked the car. S said we should take the water bottle along as it would be hot inside. I said, "Come on, the show is only 2 hours long. How can you feel thirsty sitting in an air conditioned hall?"

S burst out laughing. "You think the tent is air conditioned? Hahahaha! You really think the tent is air conditioned? Hahahah!"

Looking hurt, I said I had visited a circus only once before in my life. I had seen it when I was 8 years old: the Russian circus performed in a large concrete auditorium in Calcutta (evidently my parents shared my paranoia of circus tents burning down). And yes, the auditorium had been air-conditioned. S grinned and simply said, "You have lead a life of luxury till now, Archu. Wait and watch!"

So, we strolled up to the ticket counter and picked up our tickets. Then we entered the gates. And guess what, I saw a big tent ahead - an actual circus tent! Just like I had read about in Enid Blyton stories. I was so thrilled that I even ignored the animal-y smells and instead looked at the four elephants, three camels and seven admittedly anorexic-looking horses parked near the entrance with delight.

Then we entered the tent. And I understood why S had laughed. Calling it a "hall" was generous. It was simply a dusty ground with a concrete ring in the middle. Plastic chairs were arranged all around the ring for the audience excepting  the walkways which lead to the front and the back. A few big pedestal fans valiantly tried to blow air throughout the hall without much success. The whole setup was covered with a big circular tent. So this was what a *real* circus looked like!

We looked around and picked seats right next to the ring - perfect ring-view seats! Pity there were no fans near any of the ring-view seats (I guess the excellent view of the entertainment was supposed to preclude the need for any physical comfort) but thankfully, it is still not peak summer in Chennai and hence manageable.

By this time, the prospect of seeing a real, honest-to-goodness circus had completely excited me and I was completely in the circus-mood, all set to enjoy myself. With only a 10 minute delay from the original starting time, the show started.

It featured all the usual elements - trapeze artists, fire-eaters, jugglers, clowns, daredevil motorbikers, a cricket-playing elephant ( and I must say it performed much better than how the Indian cricket team is performing currently) and so on.

After seeing the clinical precision and perfection of the like of Cirque du Soleil artistes, in a weird kind of way, it was nice to see down-to-earth, "human" performances. As in, the artistes performed well but did make the occasional mistake and then carried on beyond the hiccup. They perhaps would not have qualified for the Circus Olympics, but did a decent job and seemed to be having a good time at that.

Besides, it was interesting to see just how quickly the various helpers set-up and took down props for the various acts. And heartening to note that all the artistes had a strict policy of wearing safety  harnesses for every single act that took place more than a few feet above the ground. To my surprise, the troupe featured all stripes of Indian besides Chinese, Russian and African artistes. But the background commentary was completely in Tamil (and amusing, *very* purple commentary too).

With child-like delight, we both enjoyed the show. It only helped that groups of kids from three different schools had come for the show and were enthusiastically applauding the various acts (it was nice to know that TV and the internet has not completely jaded the younger generation yet).

All in all, it was two hours of entertainment bathed in generous doses of feel-good and the nostalgic appeal of simpler times.

If you are in Chennai, check it out: http://www.greatbombaycircus.in/ . It is on till March 11, 2012.


Altoid said...

Ooh- I'd love to watch one of those simplistic circus shows - used to go to those while growing up. I'm with you- I've been institutionalized with watching too many cirque du soleil type fancy shows.

Hyderabad Classifieds said...

I like this blog website due to the quality of a description. I say thanks to that person who made this Wonderful Blog. Let Me Share This on My Face Book Page