Magician Jadugar Anand talks about challenges in magic and lack of support from the Government

A curtain to the side of the stage at Thevar Hall screens Anand, star of the show, while he does his own makeup. When he finally emerges on to the stage, his face is as bright as the posters. Kohl-lined and shadowed with blue, his eyes look dramatic, and his shimmering costume completes his transformation into Jadugar Anand, the world’s fastest magician. A week after coming to the city with his show, the 60-year-old magician looks back at his beginnings, discusses the challenges in magic and expresses his frustrations over the lack of status for his art.

Anand decided to become a magician when he was six years old. “When the street performers outside our school moved on to another place, I was bereft: not only did I miss the free laddoos and jalebis they procured and passed around, but I also found myself wanting to create magic on my own,” he says. At first, people just made him run errands while he waited for them to teach him their tricks.

Record-breaking magic

From the few tricks he learnt through books and fellow amateurs, Anand progressed to setting and breaking several world records in the field of magic. “In 1970, I completed the underwater escape trick (performed by American magician Harry Houdini and P.C. Sorcar only) in 40 seconds to break their previous records of six minutes and 90 seconds respectively.” That was the first world record he broke, when he was 18 years old. He also holds the world record for the longest blindfolded motorcycle ride (between Indore and Bhopal) and for the longest distance over which a telepathic message was sent (450 kilometres).

After 54 years as a professional magician, Jadugar Anand has performed over 29,000 shows in Japan, Canada, the United States, South Africa, India and other countries. “While the Indians abroad often told me I represented India to them, I felt I didn’t because I hadn’t seen much of south India back then,” he says. “But for the last 10 years the south has been my concentration because I find there is a refined appreciation of art here that is lacking in the north of India.”

Commenting on the need for such flashy costumes, Anand says the kingly costume has somehow become inextricable from Indian magic shows because it’s the most ‘gorgeous’ Indian costume. “I tried performing without the costumes and makeup around 20 years back but audiences in India as well as abroad could not accept me.”

Lack of patronage

The future of magic, which he considers an intrinsic part of India’s cultural heritage, is a point of frustration for Anand. As the national president of the All India Magic Federation, he says the lack of government patronage for magic as an art was worrying. “Government policies have not included magic under the list of performing arts, ancient arts or miscellany arts,” he says, adding that the lack of proper training academies for magic was endangering the art form. If the government allocates proper funding for the development of magic along with the other arts, he feels it could fetch the country a lot of revenue because there is huge demand worldwide for the Russian circus and Indian magic shows. “For so long we have kept this art form alive with just our passion. It’s time to take magic to the next level.”