In the backyard of a local vegetable market in Navi Mumbai’s Airoli, on the outskirts of Mumbai, the blue and yellow Big Top of Rambo Circus stands out like a ghost town. Perhaps emblematic of the industry it represents, the grass is unkempt, the lights are off and the usual hubbub is missing; only a handful of curious urchins stop by as the bespectacled clown, in his polka-dotted overalls, steps out for a phone call.
Inside the barebones tent, though, owner Sujit Dilip is anything but downcast. A burly man of 45, who survived Covid-19 along with his father in June, Sujit explains the emptiness: “It’s because most of our artistes have gone home to their families to celebrate Dussehra and Diwali after years,” he says. “We were able to distribute some money from our recent shows among 82 staff members, after being shut since March once the national lockdown was announced.”
Sujit’s optimism isn’t entirely misplaced. The circus, launched in 1991 by his father PT Dilip by merging three smaller ones (the name Rambo referring to its new size), is fresh off a successful digital-only show, possibly the first-of-its-kind in the world for a genre that is built around live, immersive experiences. The 45-minute pre-recorded event, scripted by events and experiential media company Laqshya Live Experiences and their partners Production Crew, was streamed on BookMyShow, Rambo’s ticketing partner for 12 years, beginning the last week of September. When it wrapped up its season around the Diwali weekend in November, ‘Life Is A Circus’ logged 34 shows with a viewership of 60,000-plus, raising almost ₹21 lakh for Rambo in ticketing revenues and online donations. By the sheer number of tickets sold, Rambo has become the highest-selling virtual show on the ticketing platform. The windfall came after seven months of zero earnings, surviving merely on doles, charity and ₹12.38 lakh that Sujit raised with an appeal on crowdfunding platform Ketto.
For Sujit, this is one of the rare silver linings of the dark cloud that has been chasing him since the demonetisation that was announced in November 2016. “For about six months after demonetisation, people only had time to queue up in front of ATMs to collect cash. Who would come to watch the circus?” he asks. The following July, the Goods & Service Tax was introduced and it “was another blow for us”. But it is 2019 that Sujit calls his annus horribilis, thanks to inclement weather. Heavy rains and floods swept the country, claiming 1,685 lives of which, according to a report by the Ministry of Home Affairs, 22 percent were in Maharashtra. “Our tents were flooded, and equipment destroyed. It was worse than Covid-19,” says Sujit. Coming on the back of these, Covid was indeed the proverbial last nail in Rambo’s coffin.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
‘The Middle Class Buys Dreams. The Businessman Sells Unrealistic Ones'
Anand Kumar starts the interview by setting the context. “Let’s get the math right,” says the mathematician.
The Home School of Thought
Concerns over a monotonous, formal education system coupled with edtech’s innovative approaches bolster the homeschooling proposition. But is India ready for it?
The Big Small Question
As Byju’s and Unacademy grow at breakneck speed, what will it take for smaller edtech players to survive?
Beating Bharat's Edtech Blues
On the other side of the billion-dollar edtech boom are children who have been unable to access the most basic forms of online education, and people who have been trying to bridge the digital divide
Handa's New Funda: From Academy to Unacademy
How IITian Ravi Handa scaled up his seven-year-old online venture for MBA preparation, and eventually sold it to an edtech major
Six (and more) Degrees of Fakery
How inaction against the rash of fake universities across the country may be incentivising the mushrooming of more such institutions
Meet The Headmasters
Sequoia Capital has bet big on edtech, with over a dozen investments, including in industry giants Byju’s and Unacademy
A Billion-Dollar Dream For Freshworks
Girish Mathrubootham is taking a cue from the rapid growth of Silicon Valley software startups to reach scale and velocity
Changing How Small-Town India Shops
CityMall founders Angad Kikla and Naisheel Verdhan are building a network of micro-entrepreneurs through their app in smaller cities
Liberal Arts: A Road Less Travelled
Colleges offering these courses in India have begun to gain ground, but for them to truly shine on the global map, they must be cognisant of the country’s culture and challenges
Mariana Matus Cofounder and CEO of Biobot Analytics
Your Facebook Friend Has Some Thoughts To Share About Your Covid Vaccine
Mark Zuckerberg wanted to make Facebook a source of reliable information about the pandemic. Instead he created a perfect platform for conspiracy theorists
A Squeeze on the Global Middle Class
An estimated 150 million people slipped down the economic ladder in 2020, the first setback in almost three decades
Unlocking the Mysteries of Long COVID
A growing g number of clinicians are on an urgent quest to find treatments for a frighteningly pervasive problem. They’ve had surprising early success.
Our Sad Souvenirs of The Pandemic
Americans can’t go anywhere, but we’re still buying the T-shirt.
How About A Covid Pill?
Vaccines are great and all, but molnupiravir, an antiviral drug in late-stage trials, could give doctors another major tool to end the pandemic—if, of course, it proves safe and effective
Oxford's dirty business
A gas station-turned-plant shop is a perfect spot for an OIL change.
Spring Break Staycation
Travel plans on hold this year? No worries—home is where it’s happening. Here’s how to map out the ideal anti-getaway right in your own backyard...
Kristian Alfonso previews her new movies for Lifetime — ALL THAT GLITTERS and HIDDEN JEWEL — and looks back on leaving DAYS’s Hope behind for good.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO CLINGS TO HIS PEDESTAL
A YEAR AGO, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was a pandemic hero.