Published: 04th May 2020
India's oldest circus starts online campaign to keep from shutting down owing to COVID stress
The Great Bombay Circus has now resorted to online crowdfunding to pay its staff their salaries
Memories of how hundreds of people lined up in 2 to 3 kilometre-long queues that stretched along the major lanes of Mumbai, eager to buy a ticket to watch the Great Bombay Circus' shows are still fresh in K M Sanjeev's memory. The way the performers' bodies flexed gracefully as they performed acrobats, rope balances and trapeze and the way in which otherwise ferocious wild animals behaved timidly on stage delighted Sanjeev, along with the spectators.
"I have seen the circus company's golden days," says Sanjeev, the company's partner. "Sadly, I am now seeing its worst days too," he laments. The company hasn't had a single booking since the first news reports of COVID-19 started coming out. "We had a show in Chennai earlier this year and after that, the group had moved to Mannargudi for a show. However, the number of people started reducing every day and by February, we had to stop performing," he says. Until then, the entire crew is stuck in Mannargudi.
The circus is now raising funds on the crowdfunding platform Milaap to meet the needs and pay its employees. "The foreign artists usually collect their salary when they leave the country. Now, we are managing with that money. We don't know for how long we can manage," he says. "Thankfully, the government provides the ration," he adds.
Sanjeev took over the circus company in 1993 after his father fell ill. "I was a Law student in Symbiosis, Pune, at that time. But somebody had to come home to Thalassery to take care of the circus company. My grandfather co-founded it in 1920," he says. Even though the business was smooth sailing initially, Sanjeev says that the ban on animals in circuses started impacting the business a lot. "It was a journey downhill since then. We were not making any profits. The company was hit the worst in 2016, after demonetisation. We hadn't actually recovered from it when the pandemic hit," he says.
Sanjeev is clueless about when things will go back to normal. "Considering the social distancing norms, we won't be allowed to restart performances anytime soon. I hope we get to perform at least by September," he says. If nothing works, Sanjeev says that the circus company may even resort to broadcasting its performance online. "People have tried that in the past, but it wasn't exactly successful. But if that is the last way out, we may give it a shot," he says,
Check out the campaign here: https://milaap.org/fundraisers/support-great-bombay-circus-1