The troupe at practice
The troupe at practice

The acts effect

Rambo Circus enchants audiences with acrobatics, laughter and air-conditioned luxury at Siri Fort Auditorium in Delhi

In a secluded corner backstage at the Siri Fort Auditorium in Delhi, Sunny Raj zealously practices his juggling routine, deftly manoeuvring colourful balls through the air. The dim lighting casts intriguing shadows around him, emphasising his focussed expression as he perfects each toss and catch with precision and grace. “Mastering juggling requires relentless practice and unwavering focus. I adore witnessing children awestruck by our acts,” he says.

Tanveer Mujawar, Raj’s companion at the Rambo Circus, smiles, “The circus is my lifeline.” Hailing from Maharashtra, Mujawar’s life took a challenging turn when his father passed away when he was just four years old. Financial constraints forced him to discontinue his education. Bereft of support, he found an unexpected lifeline when his uncle suggested exploring opportunities at a nearby circus. Thus began Mujawar’s transformative journey with Rambo Circus, where he not only found a career but also a paternal figure in Sujit Dilip, proprietor of the circus.

As the clock strikes 7.15 pm, attendees begin to fill the auditorium. Some troupe members attempt to sell toys to the children in the audience. Anil Kumar Nishad, a clown who has been with Rambo for five years, is selling laser glow swords. He says, “I see people of all ages coming to the circus. Grandparents walk in with their grandchildren, youngsters arrive with their friends, and families come together to relax and laugh. Isn’t it beautiful?” The excitement is palpable with the children’s energy filling the auditorium. A six-year-old hugs the clown as his father captures the moment.

Clowns at the Rambo Circus
Clowns at the Rambo Circus

Founded in 1991 by the late PT Dilip, Rambo Circus has journeyed through 32 years of evolution. Starting from humble makeshift tents, the circus has embraced digital enhancements and now performs in theatres. “Nowadays, almost every home has an air conditioner. We decided to extend the same comfort to our circus experience,” says Biju Pushkaran, a clown at the circus. Dressed in layers of polka dots and stripes, with a nose that glows like a cherry and a smile that stretches from ear to ear, Pushkarn in his oversized shoes is managing the 45-member troupe with finesse.

Taking the circus from a tent setting to a theatre is no easy feat. In late 2022, Dilip approached Bengaluru-based anchor and musician Sameer M Rao, asking if he would be interested in hosting the shows at each venue they visited. Cut to today, Rao has spent a year and a half with the troupe, visiting different cities and performing in over 900 shows. But he is desperate to go home now, “The heatwave in Delhi has been unbearable. I am yearning for the pleasant weather back home.”

Acting as a catalyst between the audience and the performers, Rao bridges the gap with his dynamic presence. “I grew up watching WWE and was always fascinated by how they introduced the wrestlers. From day one, I decided that for me, these circus artists are my WWE superstars,” he smiles.

The Candle Balance Act
The Candle Balance Act

The approximately 90-minute show comprises 22 acts, beginning with a lively skit by the clowns followed by the opening act, the Candle Balance Act. This mesmerising spectacle demands an extraordinary combination of skill, grace and intense concentration as performers delicately balance flickering candles on various parts of their bodies. But there are challenges that the team faces at each new venue.

“For instance, the auditoriums vary in their flooring materials. At St. Andrews Auditorium in Mumbai, the floor is flat and polished, which is perfectly suitable. However, here at Siri Fort Auditorium, the flooring is quite old, resulting in a more uneven surface. This poses a challenge, especially during performances like the cycling act,” Prakashan says.

Animals have been banned in circuses in India with effect from July 14, 2018. Circus was quick to adapt. “We’ve shifted our focus to acrobatics and other innovative attractions to draw attention. Consequently, we’ve transformed the circus experience into a spectacle within auditoriums, complete with dazzling lights and impressive sound effects, aimed particularly at captivating the Gen Z audience,” says Dilip.

As the show in Delhi concludes, the troupe gets busy. There is no rest for them as they pack their bags to head to Jaipur and Amritsar.

The New Indian Express