Category: Magic of India

Indian Magician Dies During Escape

Inside Magic's First LogoIndian Magician Chancal Lahiri who went by the stage name Jadugar Mandrake apparently died during an escape attempt in West Bengal, India on Sunday.

We never met or corresponded with Mr. Lahiri but as John Donne wrote, “any man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

We know there are deaths occurring around the world every second and our focus on this particular tragedy must seem strangely specific – especially for someone with whom we had no relationship other than the love of our wonderful art.

More likely we are moved to bring this to these pages because of the incredibly cruel and wicked response we saw on Twitter and other social media outlets.  Perhaps there has always been a subset of our population that could see the death of someone as fodder for entertainment or their own self-aggrandizement.  Before social media, however, we never met them or had to read their vitriol against someone they also likely never met.

Those that did meet Mr. Lahiri, however, feel his absence in their lives at this moment.  There is no joy or entertainment in the event for them.  He will be forever gone to them.  A part of their lives on which they doubt relied, taken from them in a public way.  Our prayers are with those who mourn his departure from their life, their days, and their shared enjoyment of this world.

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

A Magical History of India

Image of John Zubrzyckis' New Book Jadoowallahs, Jugglers and JinnsThe Hindu has a great review of what seems to be a great book soon to be released although not soon enough for us.

Written by John Zubrzycki, the title is great on its own, Jadoowallahs, Jugglers and Jinns: A Magical History of India.

The book goes beyond a review of the particular magic effects performed by Indian magicians and delves into the “the lives and communities of practitioners.”  From the Atharva Veda’s early advice on proper “mantras and incantations assuring results as various as curing snakebite, ensnaring a lover, or warding off an enemy’s evil spells” to Indian fortune-tellers in Rome and “conjuring manuals were translated into Arabic as early as the Abbasid Caliphate.”

“Hindus have always credited yogis with paranormal control over matter and energy, earned through severe penance, so that supra-normal skills such as parakaya pravesha, divination, levitation, illusion etc. were part of the social fabric, magic catalogued as one of the 64 arts.”

The appreciation for magic and allied arts has not waned in India.

India’s magic intrigued western magicians “with imperialists looking for the exotic, while the native magician – like other Indians, brainwashed into regarding the white ruler to be superior in all respects – believed he had a lot to learn from western magic.”

The art passed from father to son but was shared with westerners for money to help the family.  Apparently the jadoowallahs were low in the social caste and often impoverished.  The money helped and the trick were shared.

Mr. Zubrzycki  relates that the Indian magicians would don the clothes and persona of fakirs; including taking on exotic names such as Alfred Sylvester as the Fakir of Oolu.

Mr. Zubrzycki’s book does not reveal the secrets and he admits that he does not know how many of the effects were accomplished.  But he is certain the magic he witnessed and describes in his book was accomplished by natural means, not supernatural.

“I’m primarily interested in people, which is why my book is not just a compendium of tricks. I look at the lives and communities of practitioners. There are still fabulous histories waiting to be told, which is why I also like biography,” commented Mr. Zubrzycki.

Read more about the book and a talk given by Mr. Zubrzycki in The Hindu here.

The book will launch in September at the Taj Club House on September 29, at 6 pm. The event will also have magician Gopal Mentalist on hand to perform.

Russian Magician, Magu Takes on India

Alex Magu the MagicianSharing a sentiment of many magicians, Alexander Magu, tells the Indian newspaper The Pioneer that if it weren’t for  magic, he would be working on Russian Railroads.

He saw a trick at the age of 17 and became hooked.  Now he is performing around the globe and will be in India for a series of shows.  It is his second tour in India.

“It isn’t a profession very highly preferred or chosen. It’s all about ideas, imagination and a story-telling capacity to hold the audience,” he told The Pioneer. The initial years were a struggle for Magu whose parents were reluctant about his career choice. Had it not been for magic, he would “have been working in the Russian Railways.”

He credits Derren Brown, David Blaine and “of course, David Copperfield” as inspiration.  He loves his work in our beloved art.  He gets to travel and “explore the human mind and its numerous possibilities. The beauty of the human mind is that no matter how fearless it might condition itself to be, it is as fearful, unbelievable yet believable. It’s amazing how certain things can amaze the mind.”

His show includes mind-reading, telekinesis, levitation and gravitational illusions and the article is clear that he is performing “illusions” and not “magic.” “An illusionist might leave your eyes wide open and make your jaw drop but a magician can make miracles happen. That’s magic.”

He will be performing in the beautifully appointed Upstage, Roseate House, Aerocity every night at 9 pm from today through November 25th.

Check out the full article in The Pioneer here.

Visit his expertly constructed website here.

Magician Subash Wins 2013 PC Sorcar Award

Inside Magic Image of PC Sorcar Jr  and Magician SubashMagician Subash participated in the Birth Centenary Celebrations of Padmasree PC Sorcar, who is known as ‘the Father of Modern Indian Magic’, held on 23rd February 2013 at Madari Mancha of Jadu Bigyan Kendra, Indrajal Bhavan, Kolkata 700 019.

Every year, 23rd February is celebrated as The Magicians’ Day by Illusion Or Reality Magic Research Society.

We learned that Magician Subash received a very special award from PC Sorcar Jr., the President of Illusion Or Reality Magic Research Society at the ceremony.  PC Sorcar Jr. bestowed on Magician Subash the very prestigious PC Sorcar Award for 2013.

The PC Sorcar Award is awarded annually to the Best Magician of the Year.

Magician Subash will soon be officially inducted into the Illusion Or Reality Magic Research Society and will receive the PC Sorcar Award for 2013.


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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.

Continue reading “Documentary Spotlights Magician Colony’s Disappearance”

Gopinath Muthukad Wins IMS Award: 250 Magicians to New Delhi

Inside Magic Image of Award Winning Magician Gopinath MuthukadAccording to North India Times 250 magicians from across the country are meeting up in New Delhi to perform and participate in the International Merlin Awards night Thursday.

Union ministers Vayalar Ravi, K.V. Thomas and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit will be in attendance as the award show comes to India for the first time.

And why is the International Merlin Awards Show coming to New Delhi, you ask.

Because Inside Magic favorite Gopinath Muthukad of Kerala is the honoree.

Mr. Muthukad is slated to receive the International Magicians’ Society award for “taking traditional Indian magic to the world and campaigning for a better society with his art.”

The awards show will include a 45-minute show of “the best of Indian magic and illusion” starring Mhelly Bhumgara, Zenia, Samir Patel, Aanchal, Vikas Sharma and Ramayashree.  Street performers and jugglers will be on hand to mingle with the audience and gatherers.

The awards ceremony will be hosted by “MAZMA-Society for Uplifting Traditional Magic and Performing Arts”.
Continue reading “Gopinath Muthukad Wins IMS Award: 250 Magicians to New Delhi”

The Girl with Magic Fingers

Aarthi MangalaShe is just 17-years-old but has powers to bring life to inanimate objects.

In an article titled “The Girl with Magic Fingers,” Aarthi Mangala JM is profiled on The New Indian Express today.

“A small figurine of a boy, legs and arms stick-thin and spread out, rest in peace in magician Aarthi Mangala JM’s humid hands.  She gently whooshes twice over them and the figure, as if life is induced into it, rises slowly.”

Like most magicians in India, the young magician is quick to point out her work is based on science and not black magic.

“Science is definitely the basis for all magic,” she told the paper.  Her power is not maayajalam, an integral part of religion, but applied science.

We cannot disagree with her belief that “‘magic is not about tricking people. It’s about entertaining them with the wonders of science. ‘And it’s not just that also. Everything needs a purpose. My tricks are worth the time spent on it only if there is a theme or message that they convey.'”

And take it from us — or don’t — she is good!

If you don’t trust our judgment — and that is usually a smart move — you can see for yourself by checking out the YouTube video of a recent show. It really is very good.

Aarthi is proud of her involvement with magic so far. But how did she get hooked?  At five, she needed to present something, anything, for a school cultural event and was frustrated.  Her father hooked her up with a magician friend, she learned a few effects, performed them, received applause and adulation, and voila.

“The applause I got was infectious. That still drives me to learn more, and I have worked under over a dozen magicians across the country,”  she said. It is clear from the videos that she loves the audience and the feeling is apparently mutual. We are sure she’ll be a big name in magic very soon.

She has been a darling of the media for a while.  If we are not mistaken, there was a very nice article in The Hindu from her younger days — back in 2005.

In fact, way back in the heyday of Inside Magic, we noted that the then very young Aarthi Mangala received The National Child Award for Exceptional Achievement for 2003 in the field of magic.

Eventually, Aarthi would like to use her magic skills to help healing in a very real sense.

Continue reading “The Girl with Magic Fingers”

Roberto Giobbi’s Five Volumes of Great Stuff!

Magic Student Resting on Card College Books

We were  first exposed to Roberto Giobbi’s Card College back when we ran a small magic business.

We considered carrying the entire series for sale but even at wholesale, the investment was more than we could swing.

Since we were working on a cash-only basis, we could not afford having expensive inventory on hand.

We bought three of copies of Card College Volume One and sold every one within five days.

The quick sale and high demand actually caused us to think.

We decided to read Card College Volume One.  That mean we had to take it off the shelf and buy it.  We are cheap but apparently more curious than cheap.

We were amazed by Mr. Giobbi’s attention to detail and his innovative epistemological approach.  His method of teaching was so effective that we even learned from the book.  Our ability to learn totally new sleights ended at around 18 years of age.

(Sure, maybe you kept learning new knuckle-busting moves throughout life, but we didn’t.  Agreed, that makes us terrible and not worthy of writing a Magic News Site so sue us).

Continue reading “Roberto Giobbi’s Five Volumes of Great Stuff!”

Oops! Not Dr. Alexander but Tim and Sue-Anne

March 28th 2005 Inside Magic Article: Tim Ellis and Sue-Anne Webster Smash World Record for Longest Magic ShowWe were going to blame it on a typo but knew we would be caught out.  How can someone mean to type “Tim Ellis and Sue-Anne Webster” but instead type “Dr. Alexander”?

In yesterday’s award-winning article about India television and Dr. Alexander, we did not do our fact checking.

We wrote, with our typical aplomb:

We hear that Dr. Alexander – Guiness World Record Holder for the the Longest Magic Show – will perform on the series.

Yes, Dr. Alexander will appear on the series but he is not the Guiness World Record Holder for the Longest Magic Show.

That honor rightfully belongs to Inside Magic Favorites Tim Ellis and Sue-Anne Webster.

Even as we typed the Dr. Alexander story, we seemed to remember reading some where about an attempt at the Guiness World Record for Longest Show being performed by Tim Ellis and Sue-Anne Webster.

Maybe it was on one of those message boards or a mailing list, we thought.

We could not remember where we read that Tim Ellis and Sue-Anne Webster held the Guiness World Record and, in fact, had beaten Dr. Alexander’s own record.

Continue reading “Oops! Not Dr. Alexander but Tim and Sue-Anne”

India’s New TV Series Mayalogam is Magic

If Inside Magic was not so firmly ensconced in Mystic Hollow, Michigan, we would pull up the Double Wide O’ Magic and move it to India or Las Vegas — the two hot spots for magic these days.

Vijay TV plans almost non-stop coverage of magic in India for the next little while.   The series Mayalogam will mix celebrities and magicians in a non-stop showcase for India’s top performers.

The premise behind Mayalogam is very cool.

We learned more about the series and the word Mayalogam while surfing The Indya Star website.

Mayalogam is ruled by a pompous but skinny Raja Nakimukki. He is accompanied by his bulbous Rani Minnal Idaiyal who is engrossed with her own beauty with an unquenchable desire to be entertained. They are always accompanied by their dwarf ministers who try their best to entertain the Queen, but fail to do the same.

Apasara Mayakani, the story teller comes to their rescue every week by kidnapping some of the best magicians from the real world to showcase their acts to liven Mayalogam.

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