A former director of the National School of Drama has called for the circus in india to be recognised as an art form if it is to survive a ban on Animals in the big top. Anurarha Kapur, who headed the NSD for six years, was speaking after an adaptation of Shakespeare's play "The Tempest" was staged in a circus tent at the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa last month. The production coincided with the Central Zoo Authority withdrawing its recognition of 21 circuses as authorised keepers of wild animals, effectively banning elephants and other animals from Indian travelling shows.

Great Indian Circus

Kapur told the Times of India that she had fond memories of seeing the Great Indian Circus and Grand Circus as a child. But she said the industry has struggled to adapt to the loss of its animals, which to audiences had traditionally been part and parcel of the big top experience.

Circus school

"In the process of reinventing itself, our circus has died," stated Kapur, who added that her hope was for the establishment of a circus school in the style of the National School of Drama. "Once circus gets recognised as an art, then funding opportunities and other windows will open instantly," she said.

Circus ringmaster

Last month's production of "The Tempest" was retitled "Talatum" and directed by Abhilash Pillai.

The central character, Prospero, was cast as a circus ringmaster in the multi-language production, which featured magic, juggling, trick cycling, acrobatics, physical theatre, puppetry, music and fireworks, and ran.from December 20 - 23. Pillai explained that the Indian circus industry has been in decline since the 1990's, when a rash of regulations concerning health and safety, employment and animal welfare became increasingly restrictive.

Since the 1970s, the number of circuses in India has dwindled from 100 to around a fifth of that number.

"This is an art form that could become extinct," said Pillai, who brought in acrobats to work alongside actors in the show. In the UK, the status of circus as a respected art form was boosted with the establishment of the National Centre for Circus Arts in 2014.