Prof. Vishnupant Chatre is called the father of Indian Circus. He was born in Ankalkop, Maharashtra. He was a master of two arts: the equestrian arts and singing. Initially he worked as a horse trainer with the Raja of Kuruduwad. Vishnupant Chatre had gone to see William Chirini’s Italian Circus with the Raja of Kuruduwad in Mumbai. It was the mocking remark of William Chirini that Indians will have to wait for another decade to start a circus, that spurred the fire of revolt and challenge and Chatre was motivated to organise a circus show on his own.
Thus the first show was held on March 20th 1880 in the presence of select guests. Chatre’s wife was a trapeze artiste and a trainer of wild animals. Chatre’s Indian Circus made a tour to north India, Chennai and Ceylon. The circus in its fourth year travelled to South - East - Asian countries and as far as the U.S. But America was indeed the Waterloo for Chatre as he could’nt compete with the mighty Barnum and Bailey Circus which was the greatest circus in the world.
Keeleri Kunhikkannan is popularly known as the father of Kerala Circus. He joined as a gymnastic teacher in the Basel Mission school of Gundert. The turning point was of course when Chatre’s Indian Circus came to Tellicherry and Keeleri met Chatre and a deal was struck. Keeleri would teach students gymnastic feats for circus and Chatre would employ them. It was in 1888 in the Pulambil area that the first lessons were given. The eminent students were Pariyali Kannan, Poovadan Kunhambu and Poovadan Govindan. It was in 1901 that he again started the circus training school at Chirakkara, Tellicherry. Pariyali Kannan, Irimban Kannari, Kunnath Yeshoda, Vendi Madhavi were his first students. On February 2nd 1904 in Chirakkara the first circus company of Kerala, Parayalis Malabar Grand Circus was inaugurated. Unfortunately it could not continue and it had to wind up in 1906. It was in 1910 that he trained Kannan Bamboyo who later became a world renowned artiste. In 1922 Keeleri’s nephew started the White Way Circus and in 1924 another disciple of his, Kallan Gopalan, started the Great Rayman Circus.
Damoo Dhotre was the most famous animal trainer in the world. During the 1930’s he was called the Indian prince of Ringling Brothers circus. Late Damoo Dhotre was acknowledged by the legendary Alfred Court for his superior handling of an extremely cruel animal like the leopard. In an enclosure full of wild leopards Damoo Dhotre could get them to do the tricks!
Prof. Damodaran started his life as a showman with a two pole tent touring from village to village and town to town in the early thirties. He went on to own a six pole tent, the only one of its kind in Asia. During those days he promoted the three ring circus for the first time in Asia. He was presented with a shield by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru for his outstanding contribution to the entertainment industry.
THE LEADING CIRCUS COMPANIES OF
GEMINI CIRCUS : It was on Aug 15, 1951, in Billimoria town, Gujarat that GEMINI Circus had its maiden performance, under the enterprising leadership of M V. Shankaran and K.
Sahadevan. Distinguished leaders of our country, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr.Rajendra Prasad, Dr.S.Radhakrishnan, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, E.MS Namboodiripad, A.K. Gopalan, M G Ramachandran and world renowned leaders Martin Luther King, Mrs. King, Lady Mountbatten were among those who had witnessed the show over a period of time.
M V. Shankaran, the living legend of Indian Circus, led the country's delegation to the World Circus festival held in 1964, in Moscow, Soochi and Yalta. They received admiration from Alexander Voloshein and first lady cosmonaut Tereskova Valentina. The entire delegation was given diplomatic visas by the Govt. of India. This unique recognition was bestowed for being rated as the best Circus troupe in the country.
The Film Industry had a special rapport with the Circus. The famous Rajkapoor film 'Mera Naam Joker', Mithun
Chakraborty's 'Shikari', Kamala Hassan's 'Apoorva Sahodarangal' were filmed in association with the Gemini Circus.
JUMBO CIRCUS - INDIA'S PRIDE
It was on October 2, 1977, in Dhanapur town, Bihar that JUMBO Circus had its maiden performance, under the enterprising leadership of M. V Shankaran, the living legend of Indian Circus.
Distinguished leaders of our country, Mrs. Indira Gandhi,E.M.S Namboodiripad, Jyothi Basu, N. T Rama Rao and
E.K.Nayanar were among those who had witnessed the show over a period of time.
Pioneered the introduction of world class Russian Artistes in the Indian Circus and heralded a new era of Indo - Soviet Cultural Exchange. The death defying acts 'during the launch performance at Calcutta in December 1994 had created a sensation in the media to the extent that it was strongly felt that the Circus Industry was on a comeback trail!
Jumbo has always stood to its name as it has the largest entertainment troupe in India. It is the one and only Circus which had a full fledged menagerie right from its inception. It has been rated as the best consistently for the past two decades due to the high standards in innovation, presentation, technology and of course customer preference.
GREAT ROYAL CIRCUS - It is indeed one of the oldest troupes in India as it is supposed to have
begun in 1909. This was initially known as Madhuskar's Circus, later
on Shri Walawalker took over the circus and renamed it as The
Great Royal. Sri Narayan Rao Walawalker, who was himself an
animal trainer played a prominent role in making the circus
internationally known. It is the only Indian Circus
which toured the globe extensively for the past 21 years
and presented shows in 24 countries, the troupe has mastered a good line
up of acts for its audience. Some of the countries that they have
toured include France, Somalia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Iraq, Tanzania,
Singapore, Malaysia, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Kenya, U.A.E, Saudi
Arabia, Mauritius, Sudan and Indonesia.
GREAT BOMBAY CIRCUS -Baburao Kadam founded the Grand Bombay Circus in 1920. The Circus initially toured in Sindh and Punjab (now part of Pakistan). K.M.Kunhikannan was a versatile artiste and founder of Whiteway and Hind Lion circuses. He joined the Grand Bombay Circus with his entire troupe. The three circuses were merged in 1947 and was renamed Great Bombay Circus. After the death of K.M.Kunhikannan in 1953, his nephew K.M.Balagopal took over and became the partner of Great Bombay Circus. Under his dynamic leadership the Circus grew to be one of the biggest circuses in India.
The Great Bombay Circus offers you a fusion of complete entertainment with spectacular acrobatic acts, sizzling performance by glamourous artistes and ear splitting humorous acts by our talented clowns. To excel and earn accolades has been our forte. Our Circus was recently invited by the Sri Lankan and South African Govt. to perform in their respective countries.
Has around 300 employees which includes 30 male artistes, 60 female artistes, 40 administrative staff and 180 support staff. The mobile zoo of Great Bombay Circus has around 64 animals which include elephants, horses, camels and rare birds like scarlet macaw, blue and yellow macaw, moluccan cockatoos, african lori, african grey parrot and pigeons.
RAJKAMAL CIRCUS -
In 1958 Sri. Gopalan Mulloli started his own mini circus in a small town
Zeera in Punjab. Punjabis were very impressed by the daring Jeep
Jump of this young boy. The name of his only son is Raj and
the name of his wife is Kamala, thus by mixing two words from their
names 'RAJKAMAL' was named for his circus. Sri.
M.Gopalan gradually developed his Rajkamal Circus which moved from place
to place all over India including all metro cities Calcutta, Mumbai,
Delhi, Madras etc.. During last 48 years inspite of hard struggle facing
many befell calamities, both natural and man made 'RAJKAMAL' survived and
today it has got a name with fame and become one of the Top most, Biggest
circus of India which has successfully toured abroad in Gulf countries
GREAT RAYMAN CIRCUS -
This is one of the oldest circus troupe in India. This was founded
by late Kallan Gopalan in 1920, who was indeed one of the greatest showman
of those times. Shri Kallan Gopalan had made a yeoman
contribution to the circus industry. He had founded the Amar
Circus, National Circus, Bharat Circus and a couple of circuses. The
Amar Circus still continues to have very good business.
AMAR CIRCUS -
This was founded by shri.Kallan Gopalan in the 60s. The circus had been
featured in the Limca Book of Records for the outstanding acrobatic
performance. Shri. K.P.Hemraj, presently manages the circus.