THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Indian circus which was once ruled by Malayali as owners, performers and artists, is today dominated by people from other states or foreigners.
Tracing the history of Jumbo Circus, which is camping in the city at present, elderly artist Master Kumarn, despite hearing impairment, is still in high spirits.
"This company was started by Malayalis, and most performers and artists too were from Kerala. But today not a single Malayalee is joining the field."
The foreign performers are paid in dollars monthly, and the company also arranges their flight tickets.
There are other facilities, including good rooms for quarters and a separate cook, especially for African artists who are not comfortable with the local spicy food.
"We have African acrobats who do weightlifting and fire dance. Then there are bikers from Assam. But sadly there are no Malayali artistes in these fields," Mr Kumaran said.
Having had a long association with both foreign and domestic performers, he is now well versed with the mother tongue of most artists as he communicates with them in their native language.
Though he took retirement from active stage performance many years ago, Mr Kumaran takes time to train newcomers. He has already trained Africans in local dance and fire dance.
The circus has artists from Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Africa, and Nepal. They have performed in almost all major metros like Delhi, Bombay, and Calcutta.
One of his disciples. Antony, 30, who joined the circus field ten years ago, holds the master in high esteem.
The artist whom Mr Kumaran trained two years ago, has performed in his hometown in South Africa besides Australia and Germany.
He has been performing in India for the past four years and has now picked up Hindi.
"Malayalam is much more difficult than Hindi," he says jokingly.
He has performed with Jumbo Circus and Germany-based Royal Circus. His famous acts include weightlifting, gymnastics, fire dance and pole dance. Mr Antony, who has an excellent team of professionals, is gearing up to enthral spectators with a special act for Onam to draw more crowds during the festival season.
Mr Anthony is the sole breadwinner of his family consisting of his mother, three sisters and a brother. His father is no more.
Jumbo Circus established in 1977 in Dhanapur, Bihar, is in Putharikandam Maithanam since August 23.
It's going to stay here till September 23 with daily shows at 1 pm, 4 pm and 7 pm. The tickets are priced at Rs 300 for front row and Rs 200 for back seats.
Jumbo Circus was started by Gemini Sankaran, aka Sankarettan, as a twin of Gemini Circus. He is 96 years old now.
Jumbo Circus was banned earlier in Thiruvananthapuram for displaying animals like elephants, lions, tigers, dogs, and chimpanzees....