Clowns & Clouds was a path-breaking show blending circus and theatre. It also helped us pose questions of survival of the art itself

It was a great feat at the time to bring together two different streams of performance – circus and theatre. The National School of Drama and Grand Circus collaborated and put up a show Clowns & Clouds, which was an amalgamation of several stories drawn from plays and mythologies 

Help from all quarters

The background score of ‘Clowns & Clouds’, a musical project was handled by the film and theatre music director Chandran Veyyathummal and the light designer was Sreekanth. Another attractive area in this project was its choreography. Madhu Gopinath and Vakkam Sajeev of Samudra Group did this job keeping the tempo and pace of each story. 

Other contributions came from AUM-1 Artistes, who helped in the video design and installations. Arun Tiwari a Fashion Design graduate from the National Institute of Fashion Design (NIFD) worked on costume design for the show and Tennyson Chinnappan was the sound designer. All artists worked in collaboration and guided the student designers to execute the design into the circus ring.

Equally important technical artistes of ‘Clowns & Clouds’ were NG Roshan, Film and Theatre Makeup Artist and Props. Designer, Sugathan Parayantharayil, the Puppet Trainer and Designer and Tushar Pandey trained the actors. 

A few other artistic collaborators including V. Sasi Kumar and Himanshu B. Joshi wrote the script along with me. Kesavan Namboodiri, a theatre activist of Kerala had creatively contributed for the pragmatics of this production. 

Rajesh Singh, who is an expert in theatre design and techniques, was the Associate Director and the Scenic Designer and helped during the directorial process. Without him the project could not have been possible at all. 

One of the most important people in this project was Rajen Pattiam who travelled with me to all the nook and corners of Kerala for different kinds of meeting and he later became the coordinator for this project. Pattiam was not only a friend but also an artist and philosopher who gave necessary local information, knowledge and guidance whenever it was needed for us.

The future of circus 

Each participant in this project has had experience of a creative process, especially in the case of NSD students. Majority of them had never seen any circus in their lifetime. Besides, the entire exercise has become a pointer towards the present state of affairs of Indian circus. This perspective was important because very few in the current generation have any nostalgic memory about this wondrous art of circus because they have never sat through any circus in their childhood. 

Finally this show also gave a platform for all the artistes to raise some pertinent questions as art lovers. What is our attitude towards this rich art form? What is that we have done to ameliorate the pathetic plight of these poor circus artistes? Did we do anything to save the art of circus from the verge of its extinction?  Did this project address any of these issues?  

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Abhilash Pillai is the Professor of Acting and Direction and In-Charge of the Cultural Exchange Program at the National School of Drama NewDelhi and Executive Director of the Asia Theatre Education Centre (ATEC) Central Academy of Drama, Beijing, China. Pillai has collaborated with both international and national theatre production and initiated the first-ever collaboration in India connecting NSD and the Grand Circus, Kerala.

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