People lament the decline of movie theatres. Streaming has taken over they cry. However, death is often not dramatic. It is slow, it involves a back and forth - there is always a fight. And sometimes the demise is forestalled. This is especially so with culture.
Culture is sticky and slimy, it isn't rigid concrete that can be broken. It is flexible, it endures way past its prime.
When was the last time y'all went to a Circus? If you haven't, it should be on your bucket list.
For everyone worried about the movie-going experience dying, the Circus should provide some fighting hope. Its decline has been commented upon. Here and elsewhere.
But every year save for the Pandemic stricken ones, a troupe comes and sets-up shop next to the Kengeri Bus Stand:
I had been to a circus once as a kid, way back when. Never felt any compulsion to patronize them again. My previous foray was blandly pleasant - the image seared in my mind was that of a midget clown running from the master clown, defying his order by blowing a whistle.
I always saw it as a cute enterprise for people to get entertained. I hoped the best for
Rambo Circus whenever I saw the pitched tent linger next to the bus stand. Ngl, I felt just a little above all this.
In Search for Novelty
But that was then. Years ago when the safest place to live was the cave in my head.
After realizing that it was not so. After realizing you might just need to cut it with heaps of the real world. Most importantly, with novelty. I slowly started to look for other things to do than what I was comfortable doing. In terms of leisure, it was to go beyond the pub and the movie theatre maybe. An art show, hiking, a botanical show...a Circus, maybe?
Novelty is essential for living.
Thus, this time around, seeing the pitched tent made me think. And as it is always with overthinking, suddenly the simple act of going to take in a show became laden with all sorts of unnecessary significance.
The troupe's time was ticking to close...they had been there for a month. Days passed with me trying to summon the will to actually figure out tickets and stuff. It sounds ridiculous...the simple act. But sometimes that's the level of habit you become a creature off. The circus' website was always 404ed, and the number given never answered calls. The act of going into the tent and asking what the deal was seemed way too inconvenient.
So comfortable and demure that the simple act...of figuring out ticket pricing, show timings, and people to go with all just seemed like a real divergence from the habitual routine.
But the more I struggled with this simple thing, the more overthinking and stress it led to. Fortunately, my family seemed interested to check out the circus too.
The Show Does Go On
The list of performances in a circus is well-established. You always have your Trapeze Artists -
They are part and parcel. They are alright.
The crowd went "Woah!" & "Ooh" and all.
But to keep it a 100, there was a certain je ne sais quoi (that's sexy for "a certain something something") missing from this opening act.
Maybe it was their safety net. Or maybe it was the fact that future performances did stuff like that without it.
Then there were performances that were pure spectacles.
And the thing about a spectacle is that it has to be more than its parts.
Girl doing a hula hoop...Whatever, I know I can't hula hoop
Girl doing a dozen of them...okay sure
Doing it with flashing lights...Looks cool ngl.
The accompanying song blaring is some garish "Zoobie Zoobie Zoobie" Bollywood song?
You can't ignore it. That's just sensory overload.
That's a spectacle.
The Juggler and the Joker! Staples ofc.
My parents, also in the audience, flexed their wisdom. Apparently, they are always paired together.
They are like the ball bearings of the machine.
I remember it as a kid, and I recognized it then. The dwarf clown (yes, it's always a dwarf clown), will play various instruments - from a flute to a whistle to just whistling...the juggler goes on disciplining and castigating him around the arena.
It's slapstick. The humour is debatable. There was adequate chucking in the crowd. But you respect it. It's circus tradition.
It's really about stage presence while clowning around, and one of them - that one in the frame - had IT.
The acrobats did a whole range of aerial acrobatics. Being suspended in the air with ropes and pieces of cloth and all. Holding and hoisting each other up while contorting into various positions.
All this without a safety net, or a harness. So you can see why the Trapeze artists felt tame (and yeah I know they were flinging themselves from one bar to another). But the internet will show you artists who actually push the limits.
As for the acrobatic ladies...they were doing some dangerous stunt. This right here had the woman hanging on a rope by arching her neck backward and head upwards. Like Whaaat?! Again no safety net, and you hanging by your neck. WhAAt?
Speaking of dangerous and breathtaking stunts...this MAN!
He really risked it all trying to entertain the crowd.
And we were holding breaths, all the time he was up. He kept stumbling over. Now conspiracies are out there saying "oh he was doing it on purpose". But really? Are you gonna fake losing balance when walking on a giant wheel with a bag over your head?
If so, that's even more impressive.
At one point he skipped on a rope while doing this. It was more clumsy than classy, but no ambulances were called.
There were other acts too. A contortionist cradling candles, dogs doing tricks (no more elephants and lions in the circus), and a guy on a dirtbike going round and round in a spherical cage - Globe of Death. And a couple more.
Some hits, some misses, but all immersive. It was not just the performances, but the whole larger vibe. It was the last day of the circus, and the circus was full. People were into it, and I was into them being into ...whatever.
At one point, during some low-brow clown sketch, a few of the kids allowed to sit at the edge of the stage (on it, at the edge) started getting a bit riotous. So a couple of them tried to rush to the centre. The ringmaster (also a clown) acted all bouncer-like, telling them to go sit back down. Two or more repeated attempts - the clown-master asked their parents in the front row to check them.
Seeing through the weak-ass sketch the two clowns were performing, I saw the delightful event of a disciplinarian dad grabbing his unruly, unsuspecting brat - dragging him off the edge of the stage. The patriarch was ruining this kid's Moment, and the tantrum on his face said it all. Kicking and screaming he was taken off stage, into the abyss of the seats.
I found it hilarious.
My brother stated I seemed to be enjoying that scene as much as those kids were enjoying the clowns kicking each other on stage (it was some real anemic humour, I swear). I was like "Yeah"...it's part of the parcel.
Idk, the business side of things. It's probably an ugly side to look at. But the demand for a Circus deep down in people's heart, the demand for novelty and something spectacular...that's always going to be there.