BEHIND THE CURTAINS OF COLOUR: AN INDIAN CIRCUS

A jester at the Gemini Circus takes a break between shows. Bangalore, INDIA 2007.

A jester at the Gemini Circus takes a break between shows. Bangalore, INDIA 2007.

The peppery odour of Elena’s mysterious perfume never failed to bring a smile on our faces as we paced towards her little tin shack at the far end of the circus camp. I knew that this meant a few minutes of welcome break from the shoot and perhaps, another animated conversation with Elena herself; a rare occasion when there was plenty of time to spare before her act.

Inside her tin ‘house’ it was impossible to look straight into her eyes when she talked. The rows of cosmetics so precariously arranged, the shimmering costumes hanging on a clothesline, the curious memorabilia from quaint places on the globe, the wall posters of a forest ‘dream’ and another of lions, created an incredible collage for the eyes to feast on. I hardly listened to her when she spoke and I questioned more on the things that I saw than on matters I wanted to know about. Elena, it seemed, in her Russian accent and theatrical élan, always had an answer that forced me to look at her in awe.

It had become a sort of a ritual by now. We entered the main gate and walked towards the left of the tent, spent a few moments at the bird enclosure with the turkeys and the emus, passed by the busy tailors who paused to smile at us, the row of the ‘family tents’ where we were made to stop infinite times to greet them and finally, end up at the back stage – our work place. We were at the Gemini Circus, one of India’s oldest and largest circus establishments.