IN THE 34 years since its exception, Cirque du Soleil, which has close to 30 productions showing across the world, has always premiered their touring shows in their headquarters, based in Montreal. However, the circus company is set to make an exception to that rule. Their next production, titled Bazar, will have its first show in Mumbai on November 15, marking the company’s entry in India. In the weeks that follow, a 30-artiste troupe will perform 64 shows of Bazaar across Mumbai and Delhi.
“India is a booming market and we see a massive growth potential, given its evolving economy. Cirque is looking to set up a permanent home in this country in the future,” says Daniel Lamarre, explaining the decision to premiere a touring show in India. The CEO and President of Cirque du Soleil were recently in Mumbai along with Bazaar’s director Susan Gaudreau. Having partnered with BookMyShow for a multi-year deal, Cirque also intends to take Bazaar to other Indian cities.
Bazaar, which will be performed in the classic big-top format (tent), will have a mix of songs, dance and acrobatic performances against a massive set, making it an extravaganza that is supported by lighting design and other technology. “The story follows the dynamics between a maestro at a circus, who is a clown. His disciple is a floating woman, who deliberately messes up everything the maestro tries. The show also plays with time so that it ends at the same point where it starts,” says Gaudreau. The line-up will include acrobatic bikes, aerial ropes, double trapeze, aerial hoop and hair hanging, among other acts.
In all, Bazaar will feature 20 acrobats and six dancers, which will include Cirque’s first Indian member, Mumbai-based Rajesh Mudki. “Cirque employs artists from over 50 countries. Rajesh will have a four-and-a-half minute Malkhamb act as part of Bazaar,” says Gaudreau. Lamarre adds that Mudki merely marks the beginning of their collaboration with Indian artists.
Apart from the scale and extravaganza, one key feature that sets Cirque apart is that the shows never feature animals but are “all about the human feat”. It’s an aspect that defined the company when it first launched in 1984 — a bunch of street performers from Quebec started a circus troupe with the dream of traveling across the world. It took them a few years to establish a firm footing in their own country, Canada before their dream came true. Today, the enterprise, which started with 20 people is now a 4,000-strong team that has performed across 450 cities in 60 countries.
Lamarre and the team understand that one of the big challenges would be to alter people’s perception of the circus. “We no more view ourselves as a circus; we are an entertainment company now,” says Lamarre, pointing out that one of their successful shows includes the Blue Man Group, a property they acquired in 2017. They have also recently picked up a company that specializes in children’s entertainment.
It is perhaps for this reason that Cirque is arriving in India with some changes to their big-top format. “It’s smaller in size, yes, but made so in order to easily set up and dismantle. There are fewer seats, a little over 1,400. The stage, however, is the same size so the scale has not been compromised on,” explains Gaurdeau. Lamarre says that the stage for Bazaar is circular, making the experience more immersive. “There are no bad seats; everyone will be seated close to the artists.” The tickets are upwards of Rs 1,250.
The redefining circus also implies adapting to the present times. Lamarre admits that even though Cirque is all about human talent, it would not be possible to move ahead without technology. Hence, some of the shows do employ aspects of virtual reality and 3D technology. But Gaurdeau says that Bazaar, which is meant to be a homage to Cirque’s legacy, uses minimal technology. “In fact, with Bazaar, we poke a bit of fun at technology because the maestro is from an older generation and technology is beyond him. Yes, we depend on technology but it can also rule our lives. So the idea is to make Bazaar about what Cirque really stands for — human excellence.”