Caught in the act: Behind the scenes of the Great Pakistani Circus

Published: March 30, 2015
Ukrainian performer Aksana and her husband. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

Ukrainian performer Aksana and her husband. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: Tight ropes and circus lights is the life Askana is accustomed to these days. The Ukrainian circus performer and gymnast has been performing with the Lucky Irani Circus for more than 15 years — around the same time she married her husband, also a performer with the circus. These days she is part of the Great Pakistani Circus.

Preparing for her evening performance at the KMC Sports Centre, Askana was powdering her face and fixing the cuffs of her sequenced jumpsuit. While talking to The Express Tribune before the 7pm show, she said that she was constantly juggling between both countries where she had family. She received her training from Ukraine and said that she moved to Pakistan to perform with the Lucky Irani Circus. Eventually, she settled in the country.

Dental Power (top) is a group act of an entire family. A Russian performer (middle). Ukrainian performer Aksana and her husband (bottom). PHOTOS: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

“So far, the response in Karachi has been good,” she said before stepping out on stage for her act.

Lights, camera, action

The Great Pakistani Circus has been running live at the KMC Sports Complex since March 20. With two shows a day, it is the first on-spot venture by the Lucky Irani Circus and a local advertising group. It is set to go on for another two months.

According to some of the performers, it is a little different than what they are used to. The mobile circus has more than 400 performers — from jugglers to gymnasts to real risk-takers, such as men who ‘eat’ fire.

Nasir, the general manager of the Lucky Irani Circus, said that performers from Singapore, Ukraine and Russia were regulars in Pakistan. “They have visited Pakistan in the past as well,” he said. “Our performers have learnt a lot from them and they have learnt from us as well. Many of my performers now speak fluent Russian and Ukrainian.”

The show runs for two hours and is a little different from the usual circus show. According to Nasir, these performances have been tweaked for the Karachi audience. “We usually perform in villages and small cities,” he said. “Since the performers are not used to being in one place for too long, this is new to them. We are focusing more on gymnastics and acrobatic performances here.”

He added that they lived like Bedouins and were constantly on the move, except for six days in a year that include Ashura, when everyone is on a break.

The crew

“The performers have tremendous skill and coordination,” said Nasir pointing towards a group act ‘Dental Power’. “The talent is there in the family. This group dresses in black and silver and balance themselves up in the air by biting on a rope.”

Dental Power (top) is a group act of an entire family. A Russian performer (middle). Ukrainian performer Aksana and her husband (bottom). PHOTOS: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

Dental Power had several performers — boys and girls, many as young as four. The leader of the troupe said that the children were his own and he had trained them for the act.

Next step

After Karachi, the circus plans to go to Lahore and Islamabad. Nasir said that he was not certain if more performers will join their group and will only consider if they had something new to offer. “We can always train them,” he said. “However, we do need to assess their talent and skill before taking them on board.”

Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2015.


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Reader Comments (3)

  • Mar 31, 2015 - 1:07PM

    Thanks for the information ET. Going to watch it with family.Recommend

  • Ed
    Mar 31, 2015 - 2:30PM

    May the Almighty guard these performers against accidents and harm.Recommend

  • Komal
    Apr 20, 2015 - 11:44PM

    Worst circus ever seen in life. One of the chimpanzee was literally beaten with a stick when he failed to do the act.
    I don’t know but this circus was a waste of money and time.
    Animals shouldn’t be in the act anyways. I wish someone could hit the trainer/performer the same way he hit the chimp. Poor chimp.Recommend

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