Outlook Business: Fun At Work – Mentalist

Cover Story. JAN 09, 2010.

Is This Fun?

Sometimes work is fun. Or is it? A wine taster, a radio jockey, a quizmaster and a mentalist answer the question.

By Karthik Krishnan, Sriram Srinivasan, TV Mahalingam

Mentalist

Nakul Shenoy dislikes being called a magician. He prefers to be referred to as a mentalist. By that, what Shenoy means is that he does not pull rabbits out of hats nor does he bend spoons (even though he can do the latter). So, what does Shenoy do? He can read your mind, manipulate it and even guess what you are scribbling on a notepad as you chat with him on the phone—and much more.

It is perhaps this ability that has made Shenoy a much sought-after corporate entertainer. He has performed for audiences in companies like Apple, Infosys, Wipro, GE, Samsung and Microsoft. “It’s a big kick to entertain the biggest minds in corporate India. Some of them come and interact with you like long lost friends,” says the 32-year-old Shenoy. About a month ago, Shenoy performed before an audience consisting of Wipro boss Azim Premji, the people who report directly to him and their families. After the show, Premji walked up to Shenoy and congratulated him. “That was a big moment for me,” recalls Shenoy.

Having said that, how easy is it to be a mentalist and a corporate entertainer? Not very easy, says Shenoy. “For one, my competition is not just all the mentalists out there or the magicians. It’s every corporate entertainer who is fighting for a share of the pie,” says Shenoy. That could be anybody from a flamenco dance troupe to stand-up comedian Vir Das. Also, being a mentalist is not just about picking up a few props in a nearby store or hiding a card up your sleeve. Shenoy says he is constantly reading up on the latest books on lateral thinking and psychology, among others. “The toughest part is that even if I know what a member of the audience is thinking there is no way I can prove it. He can just turn around and say that I got it wrong,” says Shenoy. “One needs to do a lot of background work on the audience. I have to get them on my side. And I have to think of new acts,” sums up Shenoy, who is spending ‘every waking moment’ thinking about a whole new act.