Friday, July 30, 2010

Meet Mysore's own magician Raj Bhat

There was a time when magic shows were performed on streets with no props and stage arrangements, but right in front of people watching all around. Remember the famous 'Indian rope trick' where the magician throws a long rope in the air and it would seemingly stand erect on its own.

The magician would then climb the rope and disappear, only to reappear after sometime from the ground. The trick is even today considered to be the world's greatest illusion and could not be repeated by any of the modern day magicians. These tricks were always a great entertainment, attracting huge crowds of people to these street magicians. With the passage of time and with rapid advances in technology and gadgets, the 'street magic' gave way to the 'stage magic,' where nothing short of miracles were created.

Magic is a highly skilled art of keeping the audience mesmerised till the end of the show. Today's magicians perform such acts that appears to be impossible and sometimes even supernatural, like walking on water, levitating in the air to name a few. But the truth is, all such feats are mere illusions and not real. They are so carefully designed based on simple scientific techniques, that they trick our senses into believing that what we are seeing is really happening.

Like another art, magic too requires learning and mastering skills that has to be perfected by rigorous practice. But for Jadugar Raj Bhat, a native of Mysore, magic seems to have come quite naturally, as an inborn instinct. Raj says, "I was so impressed after watching a magic show performed in the school where I was studying, that I immediately decided that I will become a magician. I started collecting books written by great magicians and also began practicing some of their techniques."

Thus Raj began his magical journey and started performing on stage that left the audience spell-bound. That he won a State award when he was just 14 years old and a National award when he was 16 for conveying a social message, is a testimony for his magical skills. He has chosen magic as a full-time profession and has already performed several magic shows in various schools and colleges. Raj who holds a Master’s degree in Psychology from Mysore University is the son of late Kasturi and Gopalkrishna Bhat.

"My desire was to serve the society through magic. With the intention of reaching more number of people, I joined Rotaract Club in 2001. In 2006-07, I was elected as the President of the Club when it won the Best Club Award and 27 various other awards in the Zone. In 2008, I was elected as the Charter President of Lions Club-Jayalakshmipuram. In 2009, I joined international social service organisation JCI Mysore Brindavan, and am presently involved in various social activities."

"I am also involved with various government departments like the Dept. of Kannada and Culture and Karnataka State Pollution Control Board. With the help and support provided by these departments, I am performing magic shows not only in Karnataka but in various parts of the country creating awareness among people on various social issues like importance of education, women empowerment, AIDS, blood donation, rural development, dangers of smoking and drinking, saving the environment, on the importance of life insurance, e-employment and other such issues through my magic shows and lecture demos," says a beaming Raj.

SOM had a tête-à-tête with Mysore's own magician at K. Vasudevacharya Bhavan on JLB Road, where a magic and ventriloquism (the art of projecting your voice so that it seems to come from another source, as from a ventriloquist's dummy) show was organised by Bhasange Balaga recently.

SOM: Does magic as illusion, evoke feelings of mystery in man?

Raj: Yes, it does. Magic is a sense of perception.

SOM: The great ‘Indian Rope trick’ was considered to be one of the staple performances for any magician. Is it still being reformed?

Raj: Yes, it is being reformed. As technology is improving, they are using even more advanced methods to perform the trick, like the use of remote controls. Once in a while, all magicians get together and discuss how best they can improvise their techniques by adopting the latest advances in technology.

SOM: Why are not magicians playing an active role in exposing fake Godmen who still continue to fool people by pretending to materialise ash, Shivling, gold-rings and other objects?

Raj: It’s not completely true that magician are not doing anything. Many, including me, educate children in schools after performing a magic show about how these fake Godmen are hoodwinking people using the very same tricks which they just saw. Of course, we cannot perform it in a big scale as some of the ingredients like chemicals used for the show are quite expensive, which we can’t afford to buy. Only if the government or some organisation sponsors it, then we are ready do it in a big way reaching more number of people.

SOM: What kind of educational role can magicians play? Not merely performing tricks, but also explaining to the audience how a magician uses the various laws of Physics and Chemistry to create such extraordinary illusions.

Raj: Magicians can play a great role in educating children through their magic while entertaining them at the same time. Just as a child would refuse to swallow medicine if given directly and when the same is given with honey, they will take it because of the sweetness. In the same way I convey my message through entertainment which reaches them easily and it gets registered in their minds.

For example, while performimg magic shows in schools sponsored by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, I passed the message not to burst crackers. After the show, teachers informed me that in spite of them advising the kids in the matter several times they wouldn’t listen, but after watching my show, nearly 60% students stopped bursting crackers. That’s the power of magic.

SOM: How do you differentiate between magic and reality?

Raj: While performing magic on stage we create money, but if it happened in real life why should we be performing shows at all? We can sit at home and make money and give away to all the needy people. Magic is all illusion which doesn’t happen in reality.

SOM: Which is your most satisfying per-formance?

Raj: Rope trick.

SOM: While performing a show, on what do you concentrate more, effects or on the performance?

Raj: In magic we have to concentrate on both, effects as well as on performance, because only if both go in hand and hand the magic works.

SOM: How did you learn ventriloquism?

Raj: Once I watched it on TV and decided that I should try it on my own. I could finally learn it after two years of intense practice. My first performance received a good response. I am now performing with a stuffed toy chimpanzee and a boy. I want to better it further by adding a third one, but am still practicing. This is a very ancient art form where in the old days, people living in caves and forests used it as a voice from the God, but with passage of time they began misusing it. Now it is reduced merely as an entertainment. The famous magician Uday Jadugar was the first to perform it and I was inspired by him.

SOM: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about?

Raj: I request the government and the public to support and encourage upcoming young magicians to do better work for the development of the society. Presently, I am also exploring Black Magic, I take this opportunity to start research in this field.

[Raj may be contacted on Mobile 93424-97776].

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