When called “a clown” most of us would feel offended. But Nuriddin Mullozhanov just proudly nods because, well, he is a clown.
Mullozhanov, 43, known as Clown Nurik for the last 27 years, is sitting in a small underground pub, hidden at the back end of a Soviet-looking gastronom. He is well-built and tall, his graying hair is tied into a ponytail, and he speaks quietly and smiles sadly.
“In the circus I’m a funny clown, but I am calm in the real life,” he says. “It’s hard to be bouncy all the time.”
Although for most people the word clown is synonymous with carefree living and laughter, it’s an enormously difficult way to make a living, Mullozhanov says. And not just because you have to make 2,000 people laugh at the same time.
“We say circus artists are not allowed to have either stomachs, or bladder, or nerves,” he smiles. “That’s what makes you stand out from the crowd in show business. In a circus, if you say you are sick, it means you are lying in bed and can’t get up. If you can – get up and work.”
Personal affairs are also put on hold. Recently, Mullozhanov lost his father and brother in less than a month, but still had to go on tour with his troupe, “sometimes without understanding what I’m doing,” he says.
In the circus I’m a funny clown, but I am calm in the real life.
- Nuriddin Mullozhanov, clown
What is great about this job, he adds, is that it cures. “When the curtain is raised and you see smiling faces of the audience, all the pain goes away,” he says.
Mullozhanov’s clown career started early. He was born in Uzbekistan to a dynasty of railway workers. He joined a circus class when he was a child and went on a first tour when he was 14.
“At first my parents weren’t bothered much, although were not fond of my choice either – every family has its black sheep,” he remembers, giggling. “But when I went on tour for the first time, they panicked.”
Mullozhanov graduated from railway college as his father had insisted, but the circus never let go of its grip: “Sometimes we joke that the circus is like a swamp – once you get into it, you will never be able to leave it.”
He came to Kyiv in 1995 for the first time, fell in love with the city and stayed here. His family wished him luck and remained in Uzbekistan.
Mullozhanov traveled the world as a clown, performing in China, all over the Arab world, Romania, Poland, and Sweden – the list goes on and on. He says his job is quite profitable, paying up to Hr 2,000 per appearance.
Apart from circus shows, clowns are popular entertainers at birthday and office parties, and concerts.
“When we were on tour in 2002, [Russian singer] Aleksandr Malinin came to our manager and said he need a couple of clowns to perform during one song of his show, so we worked with Malinin,” remembers Mullozhanov. “It was fun.”
Veteran circus artists are also often invited to TV shows. Mullozhanov even starred in a movie on Genghis Khan, playing his doctor.
At the moment, Mullozhanov is not on the staff of any circus, calling himself “a freelance artist”.
Sometimes we joke that the circus is like a swamp – once you get into it, you will never be able to leave it.
- Nuriddin Mullozhanov
However, he is highly rated by the Kyiv National Circus’ management – ringmaster Tama Pidgurska calls him “a very talented and skilled clown.”
“If only you could see how great he was performing Baba Yaga [an old Russian witch] in the New Year show this year!” she smiles.
And though Mullozhanov is not officially a part of the Kyiv circus troupe, he did contribute to it. His 15-year-old daughter is an equilibrist, and she is training her third professional set.
She was born in Poland while her dad was on tour there, and the circus was the first place the newborn visited when her father took her out of the hospital.
“I brought her to the circus, sprinkled it with sawdust and told her: ‘Here, daughter, your fate is decided now,’” Mullozhanov says.
And don’t think him crazy – circus artists say someone was born in sawdust if they decide to join the circus after their parents. Technically, Mullozhanov’s daughter wasn’t, but he wanted to give her the next best thing.
Kyiv Post staff writer Alyona Zhuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.