Working their magic

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | JOYEETA BASU
Published Sep 24, 2019, 12:01 am IST
Updated Sep 24, 2019, 12:01 am IST
A group of enthusiastic magicians and mentalists from the city have come together to revive and popularise the ancient art form.
Amar Simhadri performs a trick at Nritya Forum
 Amar Simhadri performs a trick at Nritya Forum

Last weekend saw an evening of mystery, magic and mentalism held by Hyderabad Konjurors, a two-month old group that is aiming to revive the ancient art form in the city.

Six acts took to the stage at Nritya — Forum for Performing Arts, each showcasing a different sub-genre of magic, including stage magic, close-up magic and mentalism.

 

Though some acts seemed a bit rough around the edges, the old-school razzmatazz trick of pulling a live pigeon out of thin air by magician Amar Simhadri left the audience thrilled.

Given that the group is only a few months old, perhaps some teething could be overlooked, especially since they have a bigger and nobler agenda for the future.

For one, the group is determined to make magic mainstream in Hyderabad. Much like stand-up comedians who started out at small venues and held competitions amongst themselves to increase their popularity, the nascent Hyderabad Konjurors want to walk down a similar path.

“Magic is the art of secrecy and members of our fraternity do not usually help each other, which could explain why even after 100 years, Indian magic has not evolved much. We are trying to make it current by giving it a digital boost through social media and hosting regular shows. Our aim is also to give upcoming artists a chance to perform and have a TV show,” says Mohammad Aslam, a 24-year-old member of the group.

Also on the anvil are plans to alter the social conscience regarding magic. With secrecy and ritualised routines, magic can make an audience feel deceived but the group wants them to view it for what it is — entertainment.

“All artists experience challenges but for a magician, it is a bit different. For example, an audience is fine when a singer belts out a song on stage or a comedian makes them laugh, but a natural sense of animosity exists between a magician and his audience, who think that the magician is out to deceive them. It's like a wall, so the trick is to break the wall and alter the mindset,” explains Aslam, an engineer and psychology student who is currently prepping for his Civil Services Exam.

Interestingly, magic as a performance is believed to date back to 2500BC, with the old trick of cups and balls seen painted inside the burial chamber of an Egyptian pyramid.

In India, magic has an equally fascinating history with magicians often considered to be workers of legitimate mystical miracles, dating back to the 3500 BC old Harappan Civilisation. By the beginning of the 18th century, the practice of magic started to become evident in the country with stage or street magic being a popular form across many states. And though PC Sorcar is considered to be the Father of modern Indian magic, big stadium shows in India are hardly around anymore.

In the digital era, where everything is found online, the Hyderabad Konjurors’ efforts at a good old live performance is heartening to see, even if they have a few miles to go.

However, the group members remain positive. “The dictionary definition for magic is tricks, illusion or sleight of hand. But when people speak about magical moments in their lives, it’s got nothing to do with those definitions. To them, magic is an overwhelming experiential moment of awe. So, a ‘trick’ is not magic, it is the tool with which the magician reaches the magical moment. This was how we came up with the name, Hyderabad Konjurors,” concludes Aslam.

The Cast of Konjurors
38-year-old Rajesh L. Govindarajapuram, a Chartered Financial Analyst, brainstormed with other magicians before the concept of the group was even born. With over 20 years of experience in magic, he seeks to encourage and guide others in the field.

Aslam, a behavioural psychologist, is known for his close-up magic tricks. He is now concentrating on his PhD in Behavioural Economics while continuing to be a part of Hyderabad Konjurors.

Shaik Mynuddin or Mynu, 26, is an electrical engineer who started practising magic and mentalism in University and keeps busy with corporate magic shows. Believed to be the only one to use Rubik’s cube magic tricks in the country, he aspires to become an international star someday.

Amar Simhadri — the youngest in the group — is a shy 23-year-old from Pavuluru, Ongole, who uses magic to express himself. He has won the prestigious Nandi Award presented by the Andhra Pradesh government.

The 26-year-old engineer Shubhendu Sharma incorporates humour in his magic. Though he had made a name through corporate and embassy shows in Delhi, he aspires to win over Hyderabad through his unique style of magic and comedy.

Venu Vinjamoori, 35, started practising magic as a hobby when he was just nine years old. He is a member of the Society of American Magicians and has learnt mentalism at Chicago Magic Lounge.

The 24-year-old Prithvi is an assistant director who is equally passionate about magic. He is known for his storytelling skills which he incorporates in his acts.

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