2 August 2012

Old Magic In New Bottle Deptt.

Delhi now has a magic theatre. In a mall. I went. 

Until recently, the magic show in India had a well-defined aesthetic that drew on an imagined idea of royalty. The legendary PC Sorcar Senior and his son PC Sorcar Junior always dressed like over-the-top maharajas – bejewelled turbans, shiny kurta-churidars and glittering jootis – and most magicians followed suit. Tejas’s new magic performance, however, emerges out of a more contemporary fantasy world: Bollywood. 
The magician’s assistants are two young men in silver body suits and two young women who alternate between spangly black-fringed outfits, white satin gowns and silver miniskirts. The magician ( full name Tejas Malode), is a startlingly young man in a dark Chinese collar shirt, his hair gelled back to achieve the effect of something like sophistication. As the assistants twirl to an unidentifiable pop music track and a backdrop of coloured smoke, it feels like you’ve walked into one of Vikram Bhatt’s haunted romance flicks. 
The show has all the staples of a classic stage magic performance: he produces cards out of thin air, pulls coins out of a boy’s ear, nose and mouth, frees himself from a thick rope knotted round his wrists and knees, suspends his assistants and then an audience member in the air. Of course, no magic show is complete without the famous “sawing a woman in half” effect. Tejas’ version has a female assistant climb into a box, which he proceeds to divide into several horizontal sections that are pulled apart entirely then put together again.
Mumbai-based Tejas won the title of India’s Magic Star on Star One in 2010. Since then, he has been performing on cruise ships and in cocktail party acts – though only, he tells us, for Hollywood stars. The one cocktail act he does for us starts as a transformation: a bottle of Kahlua and a glass tumbler change places, change back, and then back again. Then it becomes what stage magicians call a production: making something appear out of nothing. Watching Tejas lift the yellow cylin­ders, first with curiosity, and then – as Kahlua bottles start to proliferate – with surprise, one realises how much of the effect of a magic show depends on the magician’s skills in acting and mime.
The other component of stage magic is to draw the audience in, and this Tejas does very well. In his version of the classic “pick a card”, he got a girl to pick a card from an “invisible” deck – essentially, to choose a card in her mind. Even better was his prediction act, where he opened a sealed box to reveal written predictions of the choices just made by three audience members. 
Tejas’s magic is perfectly competent, but the show’s cheesiness robs it of aura. But perhaps aura, like stage magic itself, lies in the eyes of the beholder. 
Magic Theatre is ongoing at Moments Mall, Kirti Nagar, New Delhi. 

(Published in Time Out Delhi)

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