Pune, Oct 3 (PTI) Life came crashing down for 51- year-old Biju Pushkaran, the head clown of India's famous Rambo Circus, along with its over 100 artistes when the coronavirus-induced lockdown was imposed in March this year, forcing the circus to fold its tent.
But after six months of despondency, smile returned on the faces of these artistes as the circus went online and presented a virtual show for the first time on September 25.
The crew members say that they felt hopeless and dejected during the lockdown, but this virtual way of presenting the show through pre-recorded videos has given a new lease of life to the circus.
The artistes, especially the clowns, say that although they are happy to be back in the game, they are missing the fun of the live shows like getting hugs from children and selfies with them.
Overwhelmed by the response to this special fundraising show 'Life Is A Circus', organised in association with LaQshya Live Experiences and Production Crew Entertainment, the circus is now planning to hold more such shows in the near future.
'After the lockdown was imposed, we thought it was a temporary phase, but as the severity of the pandemic increased so as the lockdowns, our artistes stranded at Airoli in Navi Mumbai, started feeling the pinch in terms of food and income,' said Pushkaran.
He said local politicians and social groups lent a helping hand, which made them sail through during tough times as they provided grocery and other items.
'While I was here in Maharashtra, my family, including my wife and children, back in Kerala were also going through hard times and I had to send whatever money I had,' he said.
Pushkaran added that as the pandemic situation was worsening in Mumbai, at least 40 artistes and workers at the circus left for home after special trains were started by the government.
'I felt dejected, defeated and sank into depression as the future looked bleak, but my owner Sujit Dilip infused confidence in me and said although we are down, we are definitely not out,' he said.
According to Pushkaran, the circus was then approached by Production Crew for online shows. Thereafter, shooting for the virtual shows took off.
He said that on the first day of the shooting, he froze before the camera.
'The director asked me what happened. I told him that I am missing hugs, selfies and dancing with little kids which used to take place during a live show in the actual circus,' he said.
Pushkaran, a circus clown for 21 years, said that after the first show, he felt happy after seeing childrens sitting holding placards with messages like 'We Love Rambo Circus' written on it.
The online show has a feature called 'Meet & Greet' session wherein the clowns and artistes interact with children virtually.
'During this session, several kids asked us about our well-being, about our families, how we lived during the pandemic. Through these conversations, smile returned to our faces,' he added.
Sujit Dilip, owner of Rambo Circus, said it was a actually a double whammy for them as apart from the pandemic this year, the circus shows had been affected due to heavy rains in 2019 in Pune and Mumbai.
He said he had planned to bring some changes in the circus format with the help of a Russia-based circus group.
'I had gone to Germany to see the technology where holographic animals are used instead of animals in the circus.
But COVID-19 put brakes on all the plans,' Dilip added.
'This virtual method of presenting the show has given a new lease of life for all the circus crew, who felt dejected during the lockdown,' he said.
Speaking about the show, he said it was a ticketed event hosted on a virtual platform with an audience watching it from their houses.
'It is a 60-minute-long completely pre-recorded show.
All the acts were shot in the circus tent,' he said.
He added that the show was presented in the form of a narrative.
'The narrative harps on the journey of Rambo Circus.
It unravels the acts while highlighting the achievements, struggles, global presence and the never-ending enthusiasm of the artistes that have kept it alive through thick and thin,' he said.
The show culminates into the act that is dedicated to the COVID-19 warriors for their constant effort to combat the pandemic with a special message from the artistes of the circus, he said.
Saurabh Khurana of LaQshya Live Experiences said that for last two-and-a-half months, they were working on this project by roping in experts and professionals. PTI SPK NP NP