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Indian circus going out of business

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Its a 130-year old industry. We have spent our childhood watching those trapeze artists and animals perform stunts to packed crowds. I have personally been to so many of those in my childhood with my parents. Shahrukh Khan once starred in a famous Circus teleserial during the beginning of his career.

The decline of this industry is apparent: In 2002, the Indian circus federation had 22 members and today has about 10 or 15 of them.

This erstwhile and magnificant/graceful business is almost shutting shop today.


1. The 1998 Supreme court ban on use of animals (tigers, leopards, lions, bears and monkeys) has taken the shine off the shows. Those were the star attractions. If you had to see animals – you had two options then (20 years ago) – one: the zoo and two: the circus. Most people preferred the latter due to the convenience and ease of travel to the circus venues.

2. There is a ban on mis-use of children below the age of 14 in circus shows.

3. Circus organizers don’t get to organize the circus shows in the heart of the city – usually they are away from the city limits on large open spaces. This does not attract crowds. People prefer to goto the neighbourhood mall to catch a PVR/iNox movie instead!

4. Running costs of a circus are in the region of $1800 per day but the revenue generated is only about $1000 per day. The organizers don’t even break-even so how are they to stay in business? Almost 70% of the seats remain empty though they are competitively priced at Rs. 25 per seat. Add to this their logistical costs of managing almost 60-70 trucks of equipment and animals – those are a huge chunk of their expenditure. Looking after the animals and feeding their entourage is not easy for the circus organizers. Moreover, safety concerns are also there due to some of the dangerous stunts being performed.

So, can this ailing industry be revived?

I doubt it. With the proliferation of mass media and other convenience outlets to attract the masses, the circuses would gradually go extinct as the animals that once participated in them are!


Written by Naveen Athresh

October 28, 2007 at 10:04 am

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