The Great Bombay Circus has witnessed an 80% loss in the number of visitors after the cash crunch.

Demonetisation Following cash crunch one of the oldest circus in the country suffersAll Images: Nitin B
news News Saturday, November 26, 2016 - 16:29

71-year-old Tulsi Das Chowdary is a worried man.

"Ever since this 'note problem' started, people have stopped coming. They need money for their house first, only then will they even think about spending outside," he says, as he sits in a temporary tent set up at Moosapet in Hyderabad.

Tulsi Das is the oldest performing clown at the Great Bombay Circus, which is presently in the city after 15 years.

The travelling circus, is almost a century old and was first established in 1920. Every few months, it sets shop at a particular city, and entertains the local population, before packing up and moving to the next location.

However, since the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes by the Central government, the circus is struggling to break even.

"We have had an 80% loss in the number of visitors after the demonetisation. It has made things really bad and has hit the entire business of the entertainment industry," says Sanjeev Balagopal, the managing director of the circus.

The entrance to the circus, is decorated with pictures of historical figures including Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and MGR, during their visit to the circus at different locations.

Right outside the entrance, a class of school students wait excitedly for their turn to go in.

This might be the circus' biggest infux of visitors for the day. The crowd has thinned so much, that the circus had to permanently cancel one weekday show.

Behind the large tent where the show happens, performers live in much smaller, tightly packed tents, each with one or two beds, and basic possessions.

Avikkal Pavithran, who is the circus' ring master, is responsible for the training of all the animals from horses to dogs and birds. He has been with the Bombay circus for roughly one and a half years.

"We were already losing customers for the past eight months. We were hoping that things would pick up here, but ever since the cash crunch, things have gotten worse," Pavithran says.

However, for some performers, this is still an upgrade from their previous jobs.

Nirea Gesesew, a performer from Ethiopia, says that even dismal crowds like these are an improvement from the state in his country.

"In my country, we have many artists, but it is even tougher to find work. No one wants to watch us. At least here, some people still come to watch the circus," says the Addis Ababa native, who has been with the Bombay circus for 2-3 months now.

Tulsi Das, who has been doing this job since he was a 13-year-old, says that it is really disappointing to see such empty stands.

"We always did good every time we have come to Hyderabad. If this city is like this, I can only imagine how things are going to be once we move to Visakhapatnam, which is next on the list," Tulsi Das says.

The circus had last come to the city in 2001, where they had set up at Gymkhana. The previous visit before that, they had set up at the Goshamahal grounds.

Tulsi Das recounts the 'glorious days' of the show, and says that the general fall in the number of visitors is because people are glued to the TV and the internet nowadays.

"I still remember, in 1959, one ticket cost four 'anna', and people used to be full of excitement when they came to see the show. It is a different experience when you see it on a small screen, and a different one when you see it life-size. Especially children, should experience it at least once, as it triggers their imagination, and they are thoroughly entertained," he says.

Though Tulsi Das has a fixed salary irrespective of the crowd, the scanty crowd has weakened his morale and that of many other performers.

"We only have to wait now. We have no other choice. Only time will tell," Sanjeev Balagopal adds.

The tickets for the show are priced at Rs 70, Rs 100, Rs 200 and Rs 300, depending on the seating arrangement, and the circus plans to stay in Hyderabad till December 12.


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