The Arts

Circus Legend M.V. 'Gemini' Sankaran Passes Away

After working with various circus groups across the country in the aftermath of the World War II, in which he fought, Sankaran purchased Vijaya Circus Company in 1951. He renamed it the 'Gemini Circus.'

New Delhi: Indian circus pioneer Moorkoth Vengakandi ‘Gemini’ Sankaran passed away late on Sunday, April 23. He was 99.

Sankaran had been undergoing treatment at a private hospital for the last few days. His funeral will be held at Kerala’s Payyambalam today, the Malayala Manorama has reported.

Sankaran was born in 1924, at the village Kolassery near Thalassery in Kerala’s Kannur district. As a young boy, he trained under noted circus artiste Keeleri Kunhikannan for three years. He later joined the military and served in the World War II, PTI has reported.

Sankaran reportedly started at a Kolkata circus company, the Boss Lion Circus, where made a name for himself as a trapezist.

After working with various circus groups across the country, purchased Vijaya Circus Company in 1951. He renamed it the ‘Gemini Circus.’

“Gemini debuted at Bilimora in Gujarat on August 15, 1951, on India’s Independence Day,” noted Manorama.

Among Gemini’s famous patrons were India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru – his daughter and former PM Indira Gandhi reportedly even helped Sankaran by making the Railways available for transporting animals for a Bihar show – along with Martin Luther King Jr, Edwina Mountbatten, Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova.

When environmental laws changed to restrict the use of animals in circuses, Sankaran reportedly worked closely with forest officials to ensure the large troupe of animal performers that he owned found homes in Wayanad’s forests.

Several have condoled his passing.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, according to PTI, hailed Sankaran for playing a major role in popularising Indian circus worldwide. “He played a major role in modernising the Indian circus and included foreign performers and their tricks,” Vijayan said.