Gemini Sankaran, Indian circus legend, passes away at 98
The doyen of the modern Indian circus, Gemini Sankaran is dead. Sankaran is credited for founding some of the country's most famous circuses like Gemini and Jumbo. He passed away on Sunday at a private hospital in Kannur, Kerala due to age-related ailments. He had been hospitalised a week back.
Born as MV Sankaran, he was a trapeze artist in his initial years before being turning into a circus owner and was called Gemini Sankaran after the famous Gemini Circus he established with a partner in 1951.
For decades, it was among India's most popular circuses - thousands of people thronged to watch its acrobats, clowns and menagerie of animals across the country. A ticket of the circus was considered a coveted one across the country.
They were also in demand abroad. In the 1960s, India's prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru sent Sankaran and a team of his performers to represent India at an international festival in the USSR.
The team was given an official reception at Nehru's residence before they left India. When they reached Moscow, Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, came to greet them.
Sankaran was born on June 13, 1924, as the fifth of seven children of schoolteacher Kavinissery Raman Nair and Kalyani Amma near Thalassery- often considered the cradle of the Indian circus.
In his lifetime Sankaran saw both glorious days as well as the downfall of Indian circuses.
During his run as a circus entrepreneur, several prominent Indian politicians - including former prime ministers - and celebrities came to watch the performances by Gemini and Jumbo (another big circus set up by him in 1977) artists.
Many scenes from the 1970 Hindi classic Mera Naam Joker and the 1989 Tamil Apoorva Sagodharargal were shot at the Gemini Circus.
In his final years, Sankaran was hopeful and worried about the future of the Indian circus which especially was affected due to the pandemic. His sons now manage Gemini and Jumbo circuses.