Climbing a rope suspended in air or conjuring up a tree out of his hat is mere child’s play for ace magician Gopinath Muthukad who has won this year’s International Merlin Award, or the magicians’ Oscar.

The master illusionist and stunt performer is the second Indian to be chosen to receive the Merlin Award for outstanding contributions to magic in 2011 conferred by the U.S.—based International Magicians Society.

Previously, P. C. Sorkar Jr had received the award.

“The award is equivalent to the Oscars and I am elated for the recognition by the magic fraternity. It will definitely add to the popularity of the art and attract more young people to pick it up,” Muthukad, who ventured into the world of magic at the age of 10, told PTI.

The Kerala-based magician heads a Magic Academy in Thiruvananthapuram, which runs certificate courses recognised by the University of Kerala and boasts of high-profile students like movie star Mohanlal among others.

Over the past 35 years Muthukad has also organised a series of global magic conventions and campaigns across the country. However, the illusionist says his motto is “Magic with a mission.”

“I want to work towards the cause of social upliftment. We conduct shows to promote national integration and fight against social evils like alcoholism, tobacco and terrorism,” says Muthukad who in the year 2010 under the Ministry of Defence had organised special shows for Army personnel across the country for two months.

In India while traditional magicians and street tricks are going strong, in western countries they rely more on sophisticated machinery and high tech gadgets to mesmerise audiences with their stunts and tricks.

“In the end magic is all about presentation because there are only a total of 13 tricks which individual performers mix and combine to create new illusions,” says Muthukad.

“Houdini, David Copperfield, Franz Harary and Criss Angel are fairly well known globally. All of them use sophisticated gadgetry and expensive equipments. Even I had performed the fire escape trick invented by Houdini, but it requires sustained and rigorous practice,” says the magician.

Muthukad who was introduced into the world of magic by his cousin says he later went on to train under masters like R. K. Malayath, Vazakunnam Namboodiri, P. C. Sorkar Jr, K. Lal and Podderman from Holland.

The 47-year-old illusionist will receive the Merlin award in the national capital on June 23 from Tony Hassini, President of the 27,000 member strong International Magicians’ Society.