Pro at playing mind games

He can read minds, manipulate thoughts, even predict the future. Nicolai Friedrich is not just a magician, he is a world-renowned mentalist.

The winner of the 2009 World Championship of Magic doesn’t make rabbits appear out of hats or bring chopped women back to life onstage.  

Instead he attempts to enter the most sacred place, the human mind.

“Our mind has much more potential than most of us are aware of. If you train and use some of those hidden potentials, anybody can do things that seem like miracles to others,” says the German mentalist, who was in India recently.

At the age of four, Nicolai had decided that he wanted to be a magician, courtesy a local magic show that left him spell-bound.

Even as he completed his schooling and went on to do law from the university, his magical aspirations continued to bloom.

The lad invested all his time and money in learning new magic tricks.

“Mental Magic is a mixture of psychology, suggestion and magic. It has nothing to do with supernatural powers, though it tends to look like that,” says Nicolai.

He is famous for predicting the winners of the Football World Cup in Japan and a Formula One race.

Once, for a German TV show, he got completely blindfolded with duct tape and managed to fly a small airplane – he has a pilot’s license - through the eyes of a model.

If you have studied human psychology and have a keen sense of observation about
certain things – say how people behave – then it is quite easy to detect a lie or predict a future behaviour, believes Nicolai.

“Our body is constantly screaming out information. If you think your secret thoughts are safe as long as you keep your mouth shut, you are wrong.”

It is a big part of the game, according to the ever-evolving artist, to figure out how a person is thinking and responding. “I think my success is due to my immense passion and belief in the wonders of magic,” he says.

For a performer, there’s no bigger achievement than to witness the skeptical eyes of his grown-up audiences transform into the fascinated gaze of a child.

And it’s special every single time it happens.

“Recently, while performing at the Sofitel Luxury Hotels in Mumbai, I was really moved by the audience response. It was an incredible experience!” he recalls.

“Indian audiences are very open-minded and curious about magic,” says the visual magician, who is a big fan of the great Indian hospitality.

“In India, a lot of people still believe that my tricks are based on supernatural powers. Some people are easier to read than others; sometimes it becomes difficult when people think in a language I’m unaware of,” he confides.

Magic is not just about the grandeur and deception. It has to be an emotional experience.

Nicolai admires the renowned magician David Copperfield for the way in which he connects emotionally with his audience.

Incidentally, the master magician has bought the US TV-rights for Nicolai’s famous trick called Mona Lisa’s smile.

“Some of the techniques I use can be applied in daily life as well. However, it is not as easy as it seems,” he says.

“You have to completely set the frame and control the situation - like onstage - because unfortunately you cannot stare at somebody’s forehead and immediately get an insight about his mind. It is much more of a communication process; the person has to concentrate, or at least answer my questions so that I can bring out certain reactions that disclose his thoughts,” he explains.

Like Einstein, Nicolai also believes that imagination is more important than knowledge because knowledge is limited.

In his shows, the mentalist tests the limited perceptions of his audiences and shows them how controlled they are by their preconceived notions. Of course, all of this is done with much charm and laughter.

“I believe that watching a magic show truly inspires our imagination in a wonderful way

By witnessing something apparently impossible, you are, on the one hand, amazed and on the other hand, it opens up your horizon by tearing down the border of what you consider to be realistic or not,” he says.

To think of it, everything truly innovative – say flying, for instance - was considered to be impossible until somebody just did it.

“To quote Henry Ford: Whether you think you can, or you think you can't - you're right. So please use your fantasy and your imagination more often. It is a great tool and can make the impossible possible,” he maintains.

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