Yes! I chose to start with the most clichéd title there is! And here’s why.
India since time immemorial has had Maya (illusion) and Indrajal (Magic) deeply entrenched in its folklore, myth and legends. India has been known as the Land of Magic and Mystery right from the days of the very first foreign traveler stepping on to the Indian shores. Various mystical and paranormal occurrences have found a mention in many anecdotes, biographies, and other writings.
Having said that, Indian Magic—by that I mean, itinerant and traditional Indian Magic—has had quite a harrowed and troubled status. During the colonization of India, many a western magician and ‘investigator’ that came to India in search of its elusive mysteries, went on to write anecdotes and books that were nothing more than exposures to the methods of the Indian itinerant magician. Read any of these accounts, and you are left with a rather dubious view of the traditional magician.
For some reason, Indian magic has never been projected as a skill or an art in these accounts, and always looked on as a pseudo-practice of black-magic or skullduggery. In other words, a practice befitting exposure to show it the way it is, to demean it even. Even the legendary trick (that arguably never was) is best known as The Indian Rope ‘Trick’.
No wonder then that the itinerant magic shows have remained shunned by the public, and continue to be looked on with fear and trepidation. Today, the itinerant magician performs only in the streets and nukkads of secondary towns and villages, and has almost been reduced to being a social outcast in his own land.
Indian Magic is in many ways the purest form of magic owing to the simplicity and everyday nature of the props used; in that sense almost prop-less. Mostly in the Bizarre genre, Indian magic deals with decapitations, snakes, scorpions, mediums, readings, not to forget fully-surrounded levitations, vanishes, productions.
Watching the itinerant magician at work is a treat to the eye, especially for magicians, as each performance is nothing short of a seminar in the nuances of misdirection, perfect usage of logic and storytelling.
I consider myself most fortunate to have been able to watch the irrepressible performance of Sri Samjunath Vadi, who at the young age of 83, mesmerized magicians and laypersons alike with his inimitable productions of scorpions and snakes. Truly a master magician, Sri Vadi who after stripping himself to prove nothing hidden on his bare body, transforms a brick to a serpent in less than a blink of the eye!
I have been lucky enough to see this act at least three times, and truly have no idea how he does what he does. Nor would I like to know, for this act to me is the best example of the Real Magic that India, the land of Magic & Mystery has been renowned for.
If you doubt my word, I invite you to witness a live performance of an itinerant magician, and dare you NOT to enjoy it.
PS: This article originally appeared in the Convention Souvenir for Vismayam 2008 – The International Magician’s Convention held at Trivandrum between May 1-4, 2008.
PPS: An earlier article on Indian Itinerant Magicians can be found at Mesmerising Indian Magic…