MAGIC FOR SOCIAL EDUCATION AND AWARENESS

 

By Nakul Shenoy

(Note: This lecture was presented by magician Nakul Shenoy on APRIL 29, 2000 at the Millennium Magic Convention 2000, Mumbai)

 

My dear brother and sister magicians from India and abroad.

Before I go into anything else, let me thank the organisers for being courageous enough to encourage a lecture on a topic so obscure that very few have heard about it, let alone researched it. Let me also thank, you, who have taken the trouble to come and sit in this auditorium in anticipation of my presentation. I do hope that this is worth the wait.

Friends, most of us know that the art of magic is one of the oldest arts and professions in the world. Traces of ancient magic tricks can be seen in some cave paintings. Records exist of a magic show presented before the Egyptian Pharaoh Cheops in 2,500 BC.

For us in India, magic holds a much more ancient tune to it with references to maya and indrajal – in the Ramayana and the MahabharataEpics. The art of magic even figures in the age-old Atharvana Veda.But what is magic or conjuring in actuality?

All of us being magicians know that magic is an art that can influence people from all and any age sphere. Whether you are a child of five years or a 90-year old, magic will influence you in the same way. All of us believe in the power of magic to entertain and influence people.

But friends, we have made a big mistake – for we have begun to associate magic only with entertainment. For most of us magic is a means and medium for the ultimate in entertainment. Period. The sad part here is that we do not try to experiment with our art in new dimensions and spheres.

But some magicians are trying to do just that. They are taking the concept of magic into other socio-economic spheres – may it be advertising or even social education.

There are magicians who have changed their entire show to suit the requirements of one message – be it for AIDS Awareness or Drug Prevention. Believe it or not my friends, there is a magician in Taiwan who uses magic tricks to teach the Taiwanese kids the English language! Can you beat that?!

The possibilities of this are endless. But the basic question here is – is all this any good? I mean, will the audience actually understand or grasp the message? We would think that the audience would only look at the trick and not at the message. If so, then isn’t all this a big waste? All a big Zilch?

Well, dear magicians. That’s precisely where my study comes in. Do the audience perceive the message communicated by a magician in the way intended? Now that is the million-dollar question. Before I continue with my blabber, let me demonstrate to you what exactly a magic with a message would mean.

This is something we at MAADRI performed as part of an election awareness campaign. Most of us perform the Botania in our shows. Again, most of us present this act to music or what we term as a silent act.

Let’s see how you find this variation in presentation…

BOTANIA FOR VOTER OR ELECTION AWARENESS

Patter: Ladies and Gentlemen, (displaying the botania cylinder) This cylinder here is like the ballot box. It is ascertained that it is empty before the elections. This is to ensure that every voter in our country can go ahead and cast his vote in favour of his favourite candidate. Now like most of you, I too am a voter. If we think that that “Okay, everybody else is going to cast their vote. So what will happen if I do not vote? Nothing much will happen with one vote anyway.” If everybody thinks on this line ladies and gentlemen, then the ballot box will remain empty, and the leader of our choice will not come to power. (The plume is passed through the bottomless botania cylinder and the cylinder is shown to be empty.) Now on the other hand if each of us thinks “Hey, I am an Indian, and it is my fundamental right under the constitution. So I don’t care what others are going to do. I will surely cast my vote.” If each of us does our fundamental duty, friends, our chosen candidates will come to power and take our country towards prosperity. (The botania is opened to display the flowers!)

So you see how easy it is to convert a particular magic act, one that you have been performing for years into one that gives a very powerful message for social awareness.

Now coming back to the question of – do people really understand such messages? The answer may surprise you my friends, but the good news is YES! The priliminary findings of a research on 100 subjects showed that the spectators not only understood the trick and the message, but that they remember it too!

Something that should be of more interest to us is that the research also shows, that language is not a barrier while communicating a message through the art of magic. In the silent acts or those acts that are presented without patter also, the spectators grasp the message very accurately. Friends, we have been unknowingly utilising the greatest of communication tools ever.

Let us be a little humble and admit that we have been performing the same tricks in the same way for years altogether, and thus have taken the joy out of our magical acts for our spectators. Remember that, the success of a magic trick depends Ninety Nine per cent on SURPRISE. Well, we have made our presentations so cliched that all the amazement has now been lost.

What do we need to do to change this? NO! We do not need to change our items nor do we need to change the presentations completely. In most cases, we would need to alter it just a wee bit. For example how many of us here perform the Flag Blendo? Have we ever thought that when we are presenting this item, we are actually telling our audience that “Unity is strength”? That people of all religions, castes, creeds, etc. need to unite together and only then do we form one India? The day we begin to present the same item my dear friends with this in mind, the spectators’ outlook towards the act will also change.

This is my way of presenting the item called Lucky Loops… again my friends this is a magic for social education.

LUCKY LOOPS (Item name as sold by Sam Dalal, Calcutta)

Patter: Ladies and Gentlemen, this long and lengthy piece of rope that I have in my hands reminds me of India. (Begin displaying the rope as one long length of rope). This rope is also long, real long like the length and breadth of our country. Now India is one, big country, and the only reason that we exist is because we are all bound together by this knot of harmony. (Tie the two ends of the rope together). This knot of harmony is all important, for within this lie hidden many knots (begin displaying the rope now tied in small rings with numerous knots) – the knots that keep us bound together. The knots may be of religion, they may be of caste, or creed, they may even be those of friendship or love. For all this makes ONE Strong India! (Take the garland formed by the knotted rope and put it around your neck, and bow with a Namaskar.) (After the applause has died down…) But we should always remember that this all-important knot – the knot of harmony, binds us all. The moment we forget this, and begin thinking that (begin breaking the rope into small separate loops of rope!) Hey I am a Hindu, No! I am a Muslim, Hey I belong to this religion, I belong to that Caste. Well friends if we do this, we shall no longer have one India, but many bits and pieces. Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s all work in keeping India – the land of diversity – united. Friends, let’s make India a strong and powerful nation.

So as you can see my friends, the message propagated may be anything from National Integration to Patriotism, Election Awareness to Eradication of superstitions and ignorance. It could even be for what is very popularly termed as the Gospel teachings – here magic is used to communicate messages of the religion or gospel.

Well, just to further my point about how a little alteration is enough to take your acts to new and unexplored heights, let me also show you another act as performed by my good friend, the mega-magic winner at Vismayam 98, Magician Kudroli Ganesh of Mangalore. What makes this act very special is that it is by far the most commonest of magic tricks that every magician performs – the three rope trick or what is known as the professor’s nightmare.

PROFESSOR’S NIGHTMARE or The 3ROPE TRICK

Patter: This is a story about three new-born babies. All the three were born in perfect health. The mother of the first child was educated and responsible. She knew that polio had no cure, only prevention. She made sure that her kid got all the pulse polio drops at the different intervals of its life. The mother of the second child was also educated, but was a little lazy. So this innocent kid did not get the full course of the pulse polio drops. But our concern here is with this third child whose mother was poor and uneducated. She had never heard about pulse polio drops. She had not even heard about polio! Some years later the kids grew up. The first kid who was given the full course of pulse polio drops grew up to be a perfectly healthy child. The second child also grew, but was not very healthy, he developed health problems. But like I said earlier, it is this third child that we are concerned about. This innocent child, who was not given the pulse polio drops, had serious health problems. Ladies and Gentlemen. Let us make sure that every child around us who is under the age of five has been given the full course of the pulse polio drops, so that all our children can have a happy tomorrow. Come let’s work for a polio-free world.

The second set of questions that I am addressing in this lecture is – OK, Magic can communicate. It can serve a purpose. So what? Why should I do it? Why should I be interested in it in anyway?

The answer is very simple my friends. During my research I found that up to 43% of my subjects were unclear as to how a magician performed magic, with as many as 23% attributing it to supernatural or yogic powers. What is even more startling is that these subjects came from what you would term as the educated class and background.

Fellow magicians, no matter how hoarse we cry or bawl to tell the world outside of this room that magic is an art, accomplished through sleight of hand and misdirection and not paranormal powers, very few will believe you.

But on the other hand, when we make our presence felt in the other spheres of the society like Social education and social awareness, the people, especially the government will have to sit up and take notice of this fact. And thus, we will be able to do a little service to the art of legerdemain, that great and ancient art that has given so very much to us.

I shall end my presentation with this small act with the die box. After this act you are free to bombard me with your questions and doubts.

DIE BOX – THE DICEY POLITICIAN

Friends, the floor is now open to all and any question. Go ahead and shoot.

Thank you.

VANDE MATARAM!

(PS: You can contact us w. r. to the patter for the Die Box for Election Awareness. Get in touch, if you need any help with patter or presentation for use of magic for social awareness & education.)