There is something magical about magic. A magic trick or two, no matter how simple, has been known to bring a smile upon the face of, to borrow a term from Harry Potter, ‘muggles.' While once the world of magic was dominated by male magicians, women are slowly but surely making their mark.
For Mumbai-based magicians Pearl and Zenia Bhumgara and Kerala-based magician Ammu S. Rajasekharan, the smile that breaks upon a person's face when he or she sees a magic trick is worth the applause and accolade that come with magic.
Magic started at home for them. While sisters Pearl and Zenia have their magician father, Mhelly, to thank, Ammu says it is her father, Rajasekharan Muthukulam, a freelance journalist's interest in magic that ignited the magical spark in her. All three started their training young. “But our dad, didn't believe girls could become good magicians. It was our mom, Kaizad, who taught us our first trick. When our dad saw that a girl could pull of a trick, he started training us,” say Pearl and Zenia.
While Ammu uses her magic to spread awareness against various issues such as HIV, drug abuse and tuberculosis, the Bhumgara sisters use theirs to spread cheer. “Mostly to cancer patients, orphans…,” they say.
Although learning a trick is easy, constant practice is needed for a magic act to be perfect. “Magic is like any other art form, where practice makes perfect. You can learn a trick in a day but tough to make it seem like magic,” says Pearl who left magic in between to become a pilot. When her dreams of soaring up in the air failed to take off, magic re-entered her life. “It was tough. I thought I could pick off from where I stopped but couldn't. I had to keep practicing to make my acts seem seamless.”
And constant practice seems to have paid off, for these three wooed the audience gathered at AKG Hall in connection with the first ever convention of women magicians in the city with their kitty of tricks. The event, organised by Gopinath Muthukad's Magic Academy was held with the aim of bringing women magicians to the forefront.
So, why is it that there are just a handful of women magicians when compared to male magicians? Says Pearl: “Actually, I feel there are more women magicians in India than abroad. While participating in magic competitions abroad, only one or two female magicians turn up to compete. Here, while once women magicians did not have a platform, professional magicians like Muthukad sir, are giving us one. The trend of women being mere assistants is changing.”
But did they face any gender discrimination while in the field? “No. Skill is skill. If you are good, the audience accepts you,” says Ammu.
According to the trio, to be a good magician, one has to be good at keeping secrets. “You need to know how to keep the secret behind the trick to yourself,” says Zenia. Well, while keeping secrets has its share of troubles, it also has its share of positives.
“Curiosity often drives people to learn magic. It sure did for us. Many of my friends and others too started learning magic as they saw us on stage. They thought if they can do it, so can we. In fact many started imitating our acts, or music, tricks, style of presentation…But then imitation is the best form of flattery. Our aim is to get more and more women into this industry and be charmed by it.”