India is synonymous with Magic & Mystery, and this image of a magical land has evolved through a 5000-year-civilization laden with myths, legends and folklore. Our gods, yakshas , apsaras, even demons and asuras, all perform magic and display mega-powers of illusion. Our books and scriptures are eloquent with chapters on Garudi, Maya and Indrajaal, as espoused by the gods of gods.
It is in this larger context – like it or not – that a magician steps out in front of a bunch of Indians to try entertain them with magic. And entertain with magic he or she must, while bearing in mind that the people are there to experience Maya – to witness and feel what they perceive as magic, real magic even.
Whatever the context of your show – birthday party, corporate setting, parlour, theatre, or a public avenue, the audience is there to witness magical phenomena that they could talk about, boast even – to those that were not part of the event. They are not there to see your tricks, least of all to see your outlandish props. They are there to witness and experience magic – true magic.
Think about the times people have come up to you and told you stories about witnessing magic that was not – Sorcar Sr changing time, a yogi telling their father’s name, a random man seeking and walking away with somebody’s wallet, a rope thrown up in air connects earth to the clouds… These and a myriad other similar miracles are created in the minds of the audience only to feed their human need of magical lores and beliefs.
In a land that colonial invaders, international magicians, rationalists, historians, and myriad others toured extensively to find and touch the magic that epitomised India, we are reduced to dressing up in a shirt and blazer and performing effects right out of Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin’s repertoire.
The magical land that conjured up legendary images of the Great Indian Rope Trick, Buried Alive Underground, the Flying Yogi, and the Mystical Mango Tree, is now wrought with cheap childish reproductions of the same as its best offerings.
Our best performers included, we are reproducing and playing catch-up with the rest of the magic world – creating at best inspired acts and at worse blatant shameless copies. A look at the best of the magic shows in the country only leave one with dumbed-down images of magical performances of Doug Henning, David Copperfield, Paul Daniels, Jeff McBride, Lance Burton, and Tommy Wonder (to name most!).
Where is that creativity that crafted some of the greatest magic effects the world has known? Where is that urge to perform an effect that creates real magic in the audience’s mind? Why are we content in something that clearly is not satisfying anybody else?
In “Magic by Misdirection” Dariel Fitzkee wrote: It may well be that the audience is there because you are a magician… but it is even more true that your spectators are there because they expect to be entertained – entertained by magic!
Bear those golden words in mind (today and always), and then ask yourself this: Who am I? What am I doing in magic? What kind of images am I leaving my audiences with? Is this how I want them to talk about my show?
Now ask yourself this: “Am I an Entertainer or a Magician?” Yes! Choose one of those words now. Commit your answers to these questions before you read any further.
Look at your answer. Does it say “Magician”? (I would be surprised if not!)
Remember, there are various avenues to be a sought-after and successful entertainer: music, dance, comedy, theatre, and cinema, are but a few of these. To be a magician however there is one basic requirement that cannot be missed: You need to create magic, Real Magic. And there is no second choice on that.
For centuries, people the world-over have marvelled at the mysteries and legends of a magical land called India. It is time we added to that wonderful culture and created some new mysteries for them to try and solve centuries on. Truly, the time for a new magical era is now. Are you game to create some real magic?
This article was written to appear in the convention souvenir of IndiaJaal – India’s first summit of national integration magic organised by the Academy of Magical Sciences, Trivandrum.