'It's all about wonder'

Mental magic

'It's all about wonder'

He was just four years old when he had his first rendezvous with magic. A circus was in town and he couldn’t get his eyes off the magician. The mesmerised youngster took it upon himself to learn the tricks of the trade, and now Nicolai Friedrich is a well-known name in the world of magic.

“I was totally shocked when I saw the magician. Then I decided I was going to do it myself. From then on, I’ve been doing magic,” he says. But he isn’t your traditional magician who pulls a rabbit out of a hat at every show. Over time, the German has researched on magic, worked on his own tricks, performed a few shows and climbed his way to a niche speciality. Known as a ‘mentalist’, he travels with minimum luggage but never fails to astound people world-over. He was in the City recently as part of a five-city tour by AGP World.

Explaining the term ‘mental magic’, Nicolai says, “I’m different from the traditional magicians because I use mental magic as part of my shows. They use tricks of their hands, pull rabbits out of hats and saw a box in half because they don’t like the person inside. But a mentalist plays with the mind of the spectators. A traditional magician will perform with the help of music, but a mentalist will talk to his audience. He has to be entertaining and have a good personality. He will also read the mind, influence the mind and make spectators do things they believe they can’t — without using props. The spectators are the centre of the show, and the show has to be very interactive.”

Even his fellow magicians struggle to spot the strings behind his tricks. “I try to be original, entertaining and magical at the same time. Most magicians are either funny or magical; I make my show a combination of both.” But how did he find himself at this junction? “At a certain point, when you reach a certain level, you have to specialise. And I’ve always been fascinated by how people function, think and the psychological aspects of a person. I also realised that people were impressed by such acts. I didn’t need big boxes and equipment because it’s all about wonder. There are some magical elements to a show, of course; it’s not a pure mentalist show. Magic can give me things that mentalism can’t and mentalism can give me things magic can’t. The combination is what gives the ‘wow’ effect,” he says. He is a light traveller as his show can be fitted into three bags.

It is this unpredictability of his shows that makes him so popular. He picks people at random, irrespective of whether they are easy or difficult to read. “The show definitely depends on a person. However, since I have a lot of experience, I can work with almost anyone. The person may either be someone who is easily influenced or hard to read, but I can deal with most situations.”

This wasn’t his first visit to Bengaluru but it was his first public show. Talking about the City, he says, “I haven’t had a chance to see much of it — I come in the morning, set up, and leave in the evening. But I know that there is a lot of greenery. And since I came from Gurgaon, I realised that the climate is nicer. I have enjoyed my stay here very much.” He even found a personal link to the City, “When I was here the first time, and looking up Wikipedia, I found out that one of the magicians I knew from England, Ali Bongo, was born here. I knew him well; he was a good magician who I learnt things from. That’s something I’ll always remember about Bengaluru,” he says. Does the mentalist ever include any rabbits in his show? “No, no way! There are no animals in my show. I try to be a modern magician so that’s old-fashioned for me. I’ll never do that,” he laughs.

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