Documentary Spotlights Magician Colony’s Disappearance

Inside Magic Photo of Raheja Phoenix Project Concept DrawingYears ago we wrote of a special Indian community where magicians and puppeteers flourished. The story captured our hearts and evoked a tremendous number of comments from Inside Magic readers.  We wondered what happened to the colony of formerly itinerant performers over the last decade.

We were happy to learn the story attracted the interest of documentary cinematographers who will soon release their project titled, Tomorrow We Disappear.

Part of the funding came via crowd sourcing on Kickstarter and the pledges quickly exceeded their goal of $40,000.00.  As of November 13, 2011, pledges exceeded $64,000.00.

The producers offered unique gifts to those who pledged funds.  $5.00 merited a high-five or chest bump, $10.00 got a magic ring from one of the performers in the film, and for $1,200 you would receive a custom made puppet from one of India’s foremost puppeteers.

Producer Jim Goldblum joined with Adam Weber, Joshua Cogan and Will Basanta to bring the story out of the vanishing slums and to western audiences.

The documentary tells the story of the Kathputli colony’s unique history and apparent imminent destruction. In the late 1950s, Kathputli became home for “traditionally itinerant performers — puppeteers, acrobats, magicians and fire-breathers.”

They settled in what was then a remote area bordering New Delhi.  The land – described as New Delhi’s “tinsel slum” – recently became the chosen site for the city’s first-ever skyscraper, The Raheja Phoenix.  The community belonged to one of society’s lower castes and it was not surprising the government chose to have them “resettled” to accommodate the building.

According to the development web site, the building “is the first of its kind, In-situ Slum Re-development Project at Kathputli Colony spread over 5.22 hectares, near Shadipur Depot by Delhi Development Authority.”  Apparently the slum redevelopment will not include its original residents.

“I didn’t want to make it like a sob story,” Mr. Cogan told a reporter for National Public Radio.  “In some ways it’s like a dark fairy tale.

“In India they literally have, like, a thousand years of tradition being crushed right now,” Mr. Cogan said. “It’s tough not to get trapped in the nostalgia. It probably serves an important purpose, but it’s sort of like a pathology, too.”

Mr. Cogan, director of photography for the film, took still photographs during the shooting  and is exhibiting the images as part of FotoWeekDC Exhibit at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington, DC.  Visitors can view the collection from 1:00 to 2:00 pm, Monday through Friday until January 31st.  Admission is free.


Tomorrow We Disappear Theatrical Trailer courtesy of Old Friend on Vimeo.

When the documentary is released in the US, we will feature a review here on Inside Magic.

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