Not just clowning around

The International Clown Festival India is back in its second edition featuring seven international clowns who will perform a special show, cheer up the underprivileged and teach amateurs the tricks of the clowning trade 

Clowning is serious business, ask Martin  'Flubber' D'souza, who has been a professional clown for 21 years and is currently the director of two companies -- Mad Hatters and Light House Entertainment. He is also the chairman of the International Clown Festival India (IFCI), which is back for its second innings with a line-up of seven clowns from across the globe.

Julie 'Lovely Buttons' Varholdt has been clowning for 19 years in sunny
Arizona, USA. She was the World Clown Association's 2010 Clown of the

"The first edition was a houseful event and reflected a need for such programmes. After all, there's no form of entertainment targetted at families, where children can be as noisy as they want," laughs D'souza.

The second edition will include the theatre show -- A Family Reunion -- where the clowns will celebrate their first anniversary of performing together. Arriving on unicycles, stilts and wheelbarrows, they will perform fun acts through pantomime, juggling and magic. There will also be puppet shows, acrobatic feats, stilt walking and even a cake-cutting followed by story-telling.

It took D'souza a year to co-ordinate with the clowns who from USA, Canada and Malaysia. Some of them have performed for the prestigious Cirque du soleil and the Ringling Brothers Circus. "Their schedules are booked years in advance, so it required a lot of pulling at strings to get them down," admits D'souza.

Apart from the show, the clowns will also take part in an outreach programme by visiting hospitals and helping street children through laughter therapy. Enthusiasts will be able to learn clowning tricks, such as balloon sculpting, mime, juggling, comedy and acrobatic tricks, from the workshops and demonstration sessions.

The aim of the show is to raise awareness about clowning as a skilled art and hone new talent. "People have misconceptions about clowning. They think its only about dressing up as a joker and performing in a circus. But internationally, it is treated as an art form. It is not about falling down intentionally and making people laugh; in fact there are 40 skills related to clowning including pantomime. Besides, not all clowns put on make-up either," he adds.

D'souza, who graduated in BSc (Physics) and has an MBA in Marketing, also plans to set-up a circus academy over the next four years. He started learning clowning tricks in the 90s, as a creative addition to his compering repertoire, while studying at St Xavier's College, Dhobi Talao. "I hired a costume and did a few tricks but it was a disaster. I persisted and eventually attended clowning camps and festivals in the USA. It was a revelation of sorts; I realised that we have the skills but fall short on the presentation, which the academy will hopefully address," he states.

While popular culture often stereotypes clowns as people who make others laugh but lead tragic lives, D'souza feels that only an optimistic person can be a clown. "Clowns make people happy, not necessarily gag with laughter. Hence, you may be an introvert but you need an inner spark and a happy soul to be a clown," he concludes.

From: September 27 to October 2
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Schedule of International Clown Fest India
September 27

At: Tata Memorial Hospital
Time: 11 am to 1 pm
The clowns will cheer up the cancer patients.

At: St Stanislaus School Hall , Bandra
Time: 3 pm to 6 pm
There will be a workshop on clowning and circus skills.

September 28
At: IIT Powai
Time:1 pm onwards
The clowns will perform for 200 street children.

At: IIT Powai
Time: 4 pm onwards
In a workshop with Childline volunteers, the clowns will teach them circus skills to interact with street children.

September 30
At: St Andrews Auditorium, Bandra
Time: 7 pm onwards
The clowns will stage A Family Reunion

October 1 and 2
At: St Andrews Auditorium, Bandra.
Time: 4 pm onwards
The clowns will stage A Family Reunion.

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