Monsoon is here, and for many it is a good time for visits to entertainment and water parks. Besides the rides and food, the hip-hop dancers, acrobats and jugglers all add to the experience of these parks. The men and women behind these marvellous acts are generally hidden behind the costume, masks and make-up that they wear. We meet them up-close.
These performers find their rhythm
Meet the B-boying star
For 24-year-old Anoop Sethi, an Ambernath resident, crowds cheering as he dances and shows off his moves keeps him going. The star performer who shows off his moves almost everyday at Adlab's Imagica in Khopoli says, "Hari Om from Ferriswheel, a company that sources talent and performers from all across the country, first discovered me."
Birbal Ramdhanik dances with his crew
Sethi is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com) along with his job. He says, "I practice at night and during the free time I get. B-boying first appealed to me when I watched 30 seconds to fame on AXN as a teen which inspired me to start my own b-boying group."
Babita KS with the acrobatic group performing at the theme park
Called 'Freak n Style' Sethi's crew consists of 13 members and claims to be India's only b-boying group. Talking about his family, Sethi says, "When I started off, my parents were not very supportive, but now that they have seen the appreciation I get and the hard work I've put in, they are proud of me. I go home on my weekly off and it is really nice to see everyone appreciating my talent."
Pravin Habib and his biker buddies
Performing at the theme park for more than a year, Sethi says that his fellow performers have become like family now. "I was a shy boy in school, but b-boying has made me more confident. My family is proud of me as I represented India internationally in b-boying.
Ganesh Darvesh with his fellow magician showing kids some tricks
They support my dreams of becoming an acclaimed world-class b-boyer. Performing in and around Mumbai has helped me learn new moves and polish my talent, I am learning a lot and getting a lot of praise for my work."
Wadala boy Birbal Ramdhanik performs during the 1 pm, 5:30 pm and 7 pm shows at the theme park. The 20-year-old like Sethi is also pursuing his B.Com and has just finished giving his exam.
A self-confessed Prabhudeva fan, Ramdhanik says, "I always loved dance, but I started doing hip-hop around four to five years ago when I watched a dance reality show and loved the hip-hop moves."
As he thinks about his family and their reactions to his job, the dance lover says, "My parents are very happy that I have started earning and are proud that I am doing something I love. They always felt that there was no point in doing an office job and getting bored, they have supported me throughout.
When they visit the theme park, they are always excited to see fans cheering as I perform. Personally, my family and fans give me an adrenaline rush every time I perform. Seeing both there together always gives me a high."
Daredevil stunts and some impressive moves with his bicycle motocross or BMX bike has everyone gaping every time, Pravin Habib performs. The 20-year-old Dadar resident has gone against his parents to chase his dreams.
Habib says, "My parents are totally against my job choice. It has been more than three years since I have started riding BMX bikes. My father has refused to speak to me during this time. When I go home for my weekly off only my mother and sisters talk to me, it hurts me to see that my father doesn't approve of my career choice."
Passion is what drives Habib to try new stunts and different dangerous moves on his bike. The BMX biker says, "Falling has become a hobby now! I have arm, elbow and knee guards that I wear while I do the stunts.
There was this time when I got so badly injured that I had to take bed rest for two months. My team and trainers here are like my family they help me when I am in need."
Taking his love for biking ahead, Habib has formed a team of bikers called 8E. They watch various extreme sports and learn more moves while improvising on them. Talking about BMX biking in India, he says, "In our country there isn't much scope for this sport but I want to one day become the best BMX biker in the world.
When I do that I am hoping to be able to inspire many more young people to follow their passions. I feel proud that I am making money by doing the thing I love."
Babita KB is the flexible one and is part of the theme park's acrobatic group. The 25-year-old from Manipur has chosen to come to Mumbai to support her family back home. Her brother, a construction worker in her village is barely able to provide for her family which comprises elderly parents, his wife and children.
Working as an acrobat for the last four years, Babita supports her family by using her talent. She says, "As a school girl, I was always flexible and took part in various acrobatic sports events. This is what I took forward and came to Mumbai. I was spotted by Shubhra Bharadwaj and given a chance to show off my talents."
Revealing her plans for the future, Babita says, "I was unable to study beyond the 10th standard but my talent has brought me a lot of success. One day, I hope to save enough money to start my own business back home. Then I'll be able to settle down and be successful at the same time."
Saki Naka resident, Ganesh Darvesh is the ace who makes you see and not see unbelievable things. The man who is good at using his hands to perform tricks is currently pursuing his B.Com besides working as a magician at the theme park.
Darvesh supports his family, which comprises his parents, a brother and sister. He says that he is very happy that he is using his hobby to earn money. The 23-year-old says, "I first chanced upon magic around five years ago while watching TV at home.
I still remember that day; I was watching Discovery when a magician performed a coin vanishing trick that impressed me. I went on to research and learnt some magic tricks from various online channels." With dreams of being a famous magician one day, Darvesh took magic classes and learnt various tricks.
Talking about the years he spent learning the art, he says, "Magic helps a magician be creative and he just needs to practice to get better. I have my own specialty which is a card related trick. I perform different magic tricks and very often it depends on the audience as their involvement is very important." Darvesh has always had family support.
He says, "The money to attend my first magic workshop was given to me by my father. My family is very proud that I have become such a successful magician."
The woman who all these performers credit for their success is Shubhra Bharadwaj. For the past 20 years, Bharadwaj has been identifying unusual performers. Talking about Ferriswheel, the entertainment solutions company she runs, Bharadwaj says, "Saving folk art forms in India from extinction is my aim in life.
In the years I have scouted for talent, I have travelled the length and breadth of India. The country has immense talent, but people are afraid to do things that are unconventional. My team and I help performers make a living out of their strongest points their talent."
Proud that over the years she has managed to balance her old performers and new talent, Bharadwaj says, "The most important thing for me when I spot and then go on to nurture talent is that the performer should respect his or her craft. In order to rise, an artiste needs to be passionate about art and only when I see that fire; I can help him or her."
While reality shows on television are the latest rage as they keep spotting new talent from across India, Bharadwaj doesn't agree with their concept. She explains, "Giving someone a platform is easy, but what we do is nurture talent help the artiste earn not just one meal but secure a future.
The reality shows say that one is better than the other which I don't agree with, talent is something that needs to be appreciated and not pitted one against the other. I have houses where the performers stay; food, travel and other needs are all taken care of by my staff."
The make-up, costumes and hospitality arrangements for the performers is a task that Bharadwaj and her team handle as a challenge.
"Handling people is a difficult task as there are always bad days, injuries and feelings to deal with. The 60 plus performers who represent my company and show off their talents at Imagica share a great rapport with me. They are all hardworking and ready to do seven days a week if the job requires," she says.
Bharadwaj ends, "Every week I ensure that all the performers get their weekly off regularly. We have taught them sign language so that they can tell the support staff of any problems by using this technique without causing much panic.
It is very easy to do one show, but seven days a week, 365 days in a year, day in and out doing shows and keeping it all going is the challenge. The performers are doing a superb job and I am very proud of them. Their families are well supported and they have an option to make money by using their talent, doing the things they enjoy."
Day in the life
>> Performers wake up at 6 am
>> Have breakfast and workout till 8:30 am
>> Get picked up at 9 am and head to the theme park
>> Do shows at 1 pm, 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm
>> Have lunch and practice in between
>> Leave the park at 9:30 pm