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Last Updated Thursday April 27 2017 10:20 PM IST

The great Indian election circus

Shalini Anna Dominic
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The 'Great Indian Circus' has just rolled into town and ringside seats are available. When the dates of the show were first announced, the public had barely any interest in the same. But with the spectacle drawing closer, the excitement has been building steadily and very few remain immune to its carnival-like atmosphere.

Once the biggest draw in town, the popularity of the show has been dented by the passage of time. So now, every trick in the book is being employed by the ringmasters to convince a jaded audience to give the show another chance to impress. The new circus guidelines that have come into being and the strict implementation of a ban on certain traditional props have also cast a pall over the proceedings. However, the ring masters, experienced showmen that they are, appear to have new tricks up their sleeves.

For weeks now, hoardings have sprung up everywhere, advertising the circus and its gallery of stars - the ageing warhorses as well as the rising young bloods, who have thrown their hats into the ring. Radio, TV and newspapers carry reviews of each performer's merits.

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Social media, a new entrant to the field, is being cleverly used to whip up an interactive, partisan and on occasion, verbally combative audience for this event.

Yet, nothing can replace the time-tested method of reaching out to people. Star performers affiliated to different acts, dressed in instantly identifiable costumes, descend on busy streets festooned with familiar symbols. Full of confidence, bluster and tireless energy, they brave the summer heat to give the public a tantalising preview of their skills .With thumping remixes of popular songs ,peppered with references to the latest scandals plaguing their opponents ,playing in the background they toss out pithy attention-grabbing slogans, all designed to fill the stands come opening night.

It's almost show time and the excitement has built to fever pitch. The big top is up, the colourful banners and lights strung, the sound system cranked up and the cast put through their paces before the big night.

The public have been successfully wooed with promises of fantastical acts by jugglers skilled in keeping ever so many balls in the air simultaneously, tight rope artistes walking a fine line between what they practice and what they preach, trapeze artistes performing skilful leaps from one front to another, contortionists bending and twisting themselves into different positions as the situation demands, illusionists making things appear different to what they are, ventriloquists speaking in different voices, and of course, the crowd-pleasing offers of free cotton candy, ice cream and other delights. In other words, a show that cannot be missed!

Finally, opening night is here and vast crowds stream in... young and old, first timers and old timers, idealists and cynics, all marked with the black dot of admission on their fingers. The lights dim and a great hush of expectancy falls over the gathered crowd as the promises made over the past few months echo in their minds...will the performers deliver or will it be a disappointed audience that troops out at the end of the evening, yet again? Then suddenly, the lights blaze on and the show springs to life full of vigour and colour. The captivated audience clap and cheer - all scepticism put aside for the moment - thrilled and thankful to be a part of this unwieldy, gimmicky, flawed, yet incredible experience that is the Great Indian Election Circus!
 

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