By Nishala Murthy
March 03, 2013
About NAKUL SHENOY
NAKUL SHENOY is “The Mind Reader” – a leading corporate speaker and entertainer based in Bangalore (India). An expert in Persuasion, Influence, & People Behaviour, this wonder-worker travels the world addressing elite audiences drawn from top corporates.
Globally acclaimed for his unique, high-impact presentations, Nakul has performed at venues in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, UK and the USA over the last two decades. He holds the unique distinction of presenting seven TEDx Talks in addition to numerous super-successful sessions at premier conferences & events.
A Master of Science in Communication with two gold medals from MIC (Manipal), he is the only Indian to be awarded memberships to the Psychic Entertainers Association (USA), the British Society of Psychic Entertainers (UK), and The Magic Circle (London), and is a Wizards Award member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (USA).
A speaker of choice at Fortune 100 and other premier corporate events, Nakul has worked his magic at coveted events of Apple, Bosch, Cisco, Dell, Ford, GE, HP, HSBC, IBM, Infosys, ING, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Oracle, Samsung, SAP, TCS, and Wipro, to name a few.
With over a decade’s experience (and multiple patents to his name) in Usability Research and User Experience Design, Nakul is a co-founder of PeepalDesign – a premier usability research and design firm. Among his various creations are the thought-provoking “Thinking Kit” and his first book “The Smart Course in Magic” which he recently completed writing.
A compulsive reader of books “on every topic under the Sun and beyond,” he is an occasional blogger at www.nakulshenoy.com and haunts Twitter as @nakulshenoy
I first met Nakul several months back at a corporate event. He did a “Mind-Reading performance” on the stage and I was one of his “on-stage audience volunteers” (I guess that’s what you’d call random people picked up from an audience and put on-stage). As the session progressed, I was the first to exit the stage :(. He said “I was a complete give-away on stage, and it was so easy to read my body language”
After the event, we got talking and he handed me his visiting card. All it said was “Nakul Shenoy – The Mind Reader” and that fascinated me a great deal. I mean someone with an official designation of “Mind Reader” – The first I’d met in my life!
After the small chat and general talk, we said our Good-Byes. However, the word “Mind Reader” continued to linger in my thoughts. So I read about his work, did a little research about magic and “Mind Reading” and found it to be a fascinating world of its own.
Along the way, Nakul and I continued to stay in touch – Off and on. And then I thought “Why not learn more from Nakul himself?”.
So I sent him a request on whether he’d like to feature in the Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous Series.
Gladly for me, he said “YES”
In this rendezvous, we discuss the world of magic, mind-reading and Nakul’s foray into this world of magic.
So, let’s go on a magical rendezvous
Nischala: Nakul – Thank you so much for your time.
Nakul: It’s my pleasure! Thank you for being interested in my work.
Nischala: Let’s start from the beginning. MAGIC as a word is something which is of interest to everyone – especially in childhood. As kids, we all believe that there is magic in the world around. Somehow as we grow, the “magic” just dies. So how did you manage to keep “Magic”in your life or rather make “Magic” a part of your life?
Nakul: I have always been fascinated by magic. Whether it was a Mandrake the Magician, Enid Blyton’s magic carpets, random books starring magic, or even the occult – they all interest me.
I must have been five, when I came across “Mandrake the Magician” – I loved the fact that Mandrake could make the most amazing magic happen with just a wave of his hand! “Mandrake gestures hypnotically” captured by imagination, and right from that moment, I have wanted to be Mandrake.
I guess somewhere I did not quite grow out of that childhood dream, and so I became a magician. And I continue to try to live up to my dream of being a real-life Mandrake.
Nischala: So how did your journey into the world of magic come to be?
Nakul: Since I was so very interested in Magic and always play-acting as a magician, my dad got me a children’s magic kit and that began my journey in magic. As the years passed, I continued to learn from various books and practice magic. Yet I was too scared to perform in front of strangers.
In 1994, Udupi – where I am from – hosted an all-India magic convention. I was too shy to call and enquire about what the event was about or how to participate in it. I thought you needed some special qualifications or be a performing magician to attend the convention. So all I did was attend the public performances every evening. And I really enjoyed those performances!
A couple of weeks later, the event organizers of that conference along with Prof Shankar and Junior Shankar visited our shop and my uncle mentioned that I was keenly interested in magic. Looking back, that moment changed my life.
A few days later, Prof Shankar and Junior Shankar visited my home as promised to see me perform a magic show for them. There I was in the drawing room of our house, performing the first (and possibly worst) show of my life to two world famous magicians! They then gave me encouraging feedback, advice of the routine in a show, and other valuable tips and left.
Much to my surprise, in a few weeks they recommended my name for a public performance at a local temple for a Ganesha Chaturdashi event – and that’s how I got my first public on-stage magic show.
Before this my “performances” where restricted to the four walls and to the exclusive eyes of friends and family. I was too scared to go on a stage or perform for a real audience! Yet when I went on stage that day – at the age of 15 – to perform magic to an audience of about 500 people, I was transported to a different world. That feeling was magical and clearly set me up to the realization that “I want to do MAGIC”! Luckily for me, my first stage performance was a grand success – And there’s been no looking back since then!
During my college days, I continued to perform magic and hone my skills. We had a team – primarily my friends – eight people and we started doing bigger magic shows (for festivals, parties, events, etc.). But as my shows grew, so did my props, we now needed a van to transport all our equipment for each show – as I felt that audiences wanted to see people being vanished, produced, cut-in-half!
It was about ten years since had started performing magic, that I began to get disillusioned with the bags and baggage I needed to perform my magic. My mind and heart kept asking me “Mandrake does not use props. He has no trucks with magical equipment’s, then why do you?”
Fortunately it was around this time that I came across the field of “psychological entertainment” or “Mentalism” as it is known ; and began researching more about this subject – a genre of magic that deals with the seeming powers of the mind. And so my journey into Mind Reading began and the urge to be Mandrake continues.
Nischala: That’s an interesting journey. So you call yourself a corporate entertainer – So what does corporate entertainment include – Mind Reading? Magic Shows? What else?
Nakul: A lot of people think and believe magic is for kids. But that’s not true! And as a performer, I’ve realized that magic is enjoyed more by adults. It transports them to a magical land; and they are happy in this land of make-believe.
In 1999-2000, after my masters I shifted to Bangalore for an IT job, and it exposed me to a different kind of environment, audience and possibilities. Plus I knew that I could do things very differently from everybody else!
So I thought “Why not Magical Entertainment for adults?”. During that time I was only doing some select private engagements. For e.g., I did many shows for the IAF (Indian Air Force) and the Air Marshall turned into a big fan of my presentations. The foreign military officers who were the guests loved it. I realized this had potential; and a wider audience could be interested in it.
About 10 years back I started working on my first show called “Beyond Magic” which applied the principles of human psychology, body language, hypnosis, magic, etc. – to give a performance which seemingly works on the “Powers of the Human Mind”.
That is when I began doing exclusive shows for Corporates – for their various events, be it employees, partners, clients – and began calling myself a Corporate Entertainer. My focus is always on entertaining the audience – and so each shows is customized with the audience in mind.
I transform into “The Mind Reader” by combining all my skills, be it persuasion, influence, hypnosis, magic, body language, memory… all of which deal with the “Human Mind” – I am trying to be a Mandrake, at least on stage!
Nischala: That ONE audience response / feedback that was most memorable?
Nakul: Well, there are two moments which stand out in memory.
The first was when I was called in to give a show at Wipro to the senior leadership team, i.e., the Chairman (Mr Azim Premji) and all his direct reports. It was a small gathering, and I was informed that there is a possibility the Mr Premji would not stay to see my whole show as he had other commitments, and hence I should be prepared for this. I said, sure. Yet, after I started performing I observed that Mr. Premji was enjoying himself thoroughly and that made me really happy. Towards the end, I conjured the courage to ask him if he would be willing to be a part of one of my acts. And again, he gladly agreed and did participate. So in the end, the event was an outstanding success & I was happy to be given the opportunity to be able to perform in-front of Mr. Premji himself; and also proud that he enjoyed the show and sat through the entire performance. Also, after the show he spoke to me and mentioned that he enjoyed the performance. So that is special and will always be memorable.
The second was when I was called to perform at IIT Mumbai for a Pan-IIT event in 2006. I was supposed to go on-stage at 7 PM, but the show was running late and I finally got to go on stage at 11 PM. Now the other little detail was that just before I went on stage, there was a performance by Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Sivamani and Louis Banks. They had a full auditorium with a roaring crowd, and received a standing ovation at the end. “The performer ego” in me, I guess told me that I had to get a standing ovation too :). And I’m happy to share that the show went really well, and when I finished – at 11:40 PM – I got my standing ovation too! So that was very special, and on very different terms from the first experience.
Nischala: So, what has been your most “magical moment” as a magician?
Nakul: Magical moments there are too many to list. Watching David Copperfield perform live was one, watching the performances and spending time with some of my idols in Magic especially Mac King and Max Maven is another. Meeting Uri Geller and then spending time with James Randi all in a matter of two weeks is really special too.
Everything I do, I relate back to magic. If not for learning magic, I would not have led this life that I am leading. I have met some wonderful people and made good friends across the globe, only because I am a magician. So today, clearly magic is life and life is magic.
As a magician, the one magical moment was performing at The Magic Circle in London, the most prestigious magic club in the world, and being offered membership right after that performance. That is special, because in many ways it was special for my country too.
Nischala : OK. Moving on, your site and work speaks about the word “influence”. So how can a magician / mind-reader influence anyone – be it a CEO or a celebrity or an ordinary soul like me ?
Nakul: “Influence” to me is really about influencing “human choices”. There are a lot of factors which go into how human-beings make choices for anything in life; and it is amazing how one can influence these choices. In each situation we think that our choice was our own and thus a free choice, yet the learning’s from behavioral psychology make it clear that we are influenced by the context, the surroundings – in fact everything around.
Using these learning’s to influence choices and persuade individuals towards changing decisions interests me a lot. Whether it is making people call out colors that I want them to or influencing their choices of playing cards or random numbers – it is fun, and a great learning too.
If I asked you to imagine a color, you may think black, or even white. But if I could make you think of blue without seemingly doing anything… Now that fascinates me. I guess that is the “communication scientist” in me trying to understand just how far you can push the envelope.
Nischala: OK. Another Question. Have you been formally trained in Magic?
Nakul: No. I learnt hypnosis by attending a workshop by Pradeep Aggarwal at age 17. Magic per se I am largely self-taught. When I began it was essentially from reading a lot of books on magic. And I continue to read and build my repertoire from books and other magical literature. I have an amazing collection of books, and it continues to grow.
I have also had the good fortune to have good friends in magic right from when I began performing. Friends like Prahlad Acharya, who is among the best magicians India has produced; he continues to be my sounding board as I work on developing any new idea.
Having said that, over the last six years I have had the occasion to receive personal training from some of the most brilliant minds in magic. And that comes at the right moment when I am vying to make my magic better and best.
I am fortunate to count many of the top performers and magical thinkers as friends and well- wishers, and consider myself most lucky to have learnt the nuances of the craft from some of the stalwarts of our field. This includes my guru Bob Cassidy whose work in this genre – of psychic entertainment – I deeply admire, and whose theories and ideas influence most of my work.
Nischala: Your profile says that you read a lot and you also mentioned during the course of our conversation that you have an amazing collection of Magic Books. So what is your favourite book on Magic? And otherwise?
Nakul: Yes! And not just Magic, I have an amazing collection of books on almost every topic of interest.
Books remain the first love of my life. I would not have been a magician if not for books – be it Mandrake, much of Enid Blyton, or even the books on magic themselves. I don’t read as much as I would like to, is how I always like to see it. I read anything and everything, although nowadays it is mostly non-fiction and behavioral topics.
I have always been a big fan of occult and magic related writings, communication theory, psychology, polity, war and propaganda, Wodehouse, Perry Mason, you name it… The joke at home is that everybody wishes they were treated as special as my books – for then they would at least get their own room!
Favorite book is always the most difficult question to answer. One of my all-time favorites is Illusions by Richard Bach, and if you are interested in learning magic you should definitely pick up a Henry Hay book.
Nischala: I also see that you have co-founded PeepalDesign – which is a usability Research and Design lab? So are you actively involved here? And are there synergies between magic, mind-reading, research and design?
Nakul: Well, I am one of the three co-founders at PeepalDesign and handle the Usability Research side of things. Given I have over 10 years of work experience in this area, and also that people per se fascinate me a great deal – I love the research work. It is a phenomenal learning experience to see and observe users in a lab set-up. And every new research project gives me valuable insights into human behavior, which again enables me to refine my on-stage performance and shows.
Nischala: I also see that you travel abroad for shows and events. So are there a global communities / associations for magicians?
Nakul: There are a lot of magic communities and a couple of prestigious clubs for psychic entertainers too. I am a member of some of these including, the Psychic Entertainers Association (USA), British Society of Psychic Entertainers (UK), and The Magic Circle (London). Incidentally, I happen to be the only one from India to hold memberships to all three prestigious associations.
The primary focus of these associations is to enable the members to exchange ideas and learn from each other, and also conduct periodic meetings and conventions. The conventions allow a lot of us from around the world to meet and perform together under one roof. The audience gains a lot as they get to see the best talent together on one stage. It is also good for the performers as we get to perform in a different country and in front of a diverse audience.
These communities / associations also have online forums for members to share thoughts, ideas and exchanging experiences based on what worked or what did not work. The other useful insight that we all share is the cultural space / context which influences the actual performance. This is very important especially in our area of work which draws a lot from behavioral psychology and cultural contexts, as what may work for an audience in the US or London may not necessarily work in India.
In some instances like-minded performers come together to perform joint shows too. For e.g: Four of my friends in Australia teamed up and did a series of stage shows. So it is definitely invaluable to be part of these communities / associations.
Nischala: OK, Moving on. Do you personally see any role and impact of Social Media in your line of work?
Nakul: Well, definitely Yes! Social media has helped in many ways. I used to be an active blogger in early 2000, but nowadays it is only occasional blogging. Twitter is now my preferred channel of communication. It is an outlet for my thoughts, ideas and activism. Even a place for me to engage in theoretical discussions.
And in terms of helping “Nakul Shenoy – The Mind Reader” it has definitely helped to creating more awareness about my work, and about me as a performer. Best of all, people know you as a person, and that helps a lot in personal networking, brand building. It also helps me get engagements, be it events / shows.
Nischala: Anything else you’d like to share as a part of this Rendezvous?
Nakul: Not really. You have not allowed me to leave anything unsaid! So great work on your part. If your readers come back with a lot of questions, you can always direct the top three of those back to me. I would be most happy to answer them.
Nischala: Thanks so much for your time. It was an absolute pleasure
Nakul: Thank you! The pleasure was mine too.
Article reproduced from Nischala’s Blog-o-Rendezvous with NAKUL SHENOY – Nischala’s Blog