Social commitment helps magician win Merlin Award

Over a cuppa

The Merlin Award -- which is to magic what the Oscar is to movies -- came calling on the 47-year-old illusionist recently for his outstanding achievements in the field of magic. He is only the second Indian after P C Sorcar Jr to get the coveted prize instituted by the US-based International Magician Society.  Muthukad spoke to R Gopakumar of Deccan Herald  in Thiruvananthapuram. 

Excerpts:

Have your responsibilities gone up after receiving international acclaim?

Of course. Indian magic is inextricably linked to our amazing street magicians who are immensely talented but rarely acknowledged.  I have been promoting them in whatever way I can. My academy regularly holds street magicians’ festival in Thiruvananthapuram and this time it is on August 13-14. We want to discuss with them the importance of conveying messages of social and national significance to the grassroots level magicians. They are the ones who perform at the micro level, those who interact with the common people.

Who are the people behind your success ?

I started learning magic at the age of seven and performing on the stage when I was 10. Many people have influenced me, right from my father who told me stories about magic to those who recommended me for the Merlin award. The teachers whom I came across and the people who helped me set up the magic academy like the late humourist Malayatoor Ramakrishnan have all contributed to my success.

Which was a turning point in your life ?

It was my maiden stage show in my village in Nilambur (Malappuram). Those days
I was searching for a magic teacher. It was at that time that a snake charmer smartly duped me and that only made me more determined. I went to magician Malayath who taught me some tricks.  However, my first show ended in a disaster as my tricks failed on stage. I decided that I will not be able to perform magic. However, my friends and villagers pulled me back from despair and encouraged me.

Which items do you really enjoy performing?

I like to make forecasts like the one I did a couple of months ago – predicting lead headlines of newspapers nearly 34 hours before they were out. It was the first time anyone had done it. The headlines of leading English dailies (including Deccan Herald) and Malayalam papers published from nine cities were written and stored in bank lockers. They were taken out on the day the papers came out and all the headlines were right.

You have been linking magic with history and social issues. What are your views on it? 

More than the market, it is the social commitment that should be appreciated. In fact, I  was given the Merlin award for outstanding contribution and not for
creative genius.

What was it that stalled the burning illusion trick that you had tutored actor Mohanlal to perform ?

In Kerala, professional jealousy is all-pervasive. It was just one magician who worked overtime to ensure that it did not happen. He conducted a news meet in Kochi saying the actor was going to do the high risk act of “fire escape’’ whereas in reality we were planning only “burning illusion’’. There was no fire involved in it. Had Mohanlal performed it, magic in our country would have received a great boost. Neither Mohanlal nor his fans had any problems. Finally, we decided to call it off if the people did not want it.

Any new projects

I am working on a classic called Jehanaya who was Shajahan’s sister.  I am also
doing a show for children intended to help them face problems in life, sort of counselling through story telling. Stop smoking and drugs, family bonding, paint your dream, magic for harmony are some of my ongoing projects.

Do you think there is a career in magic?

No doubt at all. Like in other sectors, we should pursue it seriously. In fact when this academy started, there were doubts about its viability. Now, there is enough demand for magicians in hotels especially for doing table-hopping tricks as well as stage shows. They can earn a steady income and derive great satisfaction out of its entertainment value. In fact our shows have only increased.

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