Tag: India

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.

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.

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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.

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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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