Magicians are planning initiatives to further the popularity of their passion

Harry Potter and his friends from Hogwarts may be playing out their last magical adventure on screen, but they are not the only ones holding fans enthralled. In Chennai, without the wands and broomsticks that the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is famous for, young magicians are casting their own spells.

Magic anna's tricks

In the last three years 13-year-old R.R. Yathunandh has built a portfolio for himself since he enrolled with the Indian Institute of Magical Sciences. He has given nearly 20 stage shows for audiences ranging between 250 and 600 people and has over 70 tricks up his sleeve. “Every day after school, I practise for at least three hours looking at the mirror and by taking videos of myself,” says the student of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Anna Nagar, popular among his juniors as ‘magic anna'. His hard work has paid off. Last month, he was selected for a full tuition scholarship to Tannen's Magic Camp at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania by the Society of American Magicians Magic Endowment Fund. A rare honour, magic teachers say, as there are not many such initiatives to encourage youngsters to take up this art.

But, what is it that is pushing school-goers to take up magic as a hobby over cricket or music. Yathunandh, for instance, says he loves to make people laugh and was fascinated as not many have taken to it. “There is also a silly reason,” he says, adding that he loves to wear the suit. Yathunandh, however, could not attend the residential camp as his visa was rejected. But he and his family members hope to re-apply and get the opportunity of learning “from magicians and for magicians” next time.

Being a daughter of a magician, learning the art was, perhaps, much easier for M.S. Suseela. “Since class II, I have been learning from my father Raja Sudhakar. I accompany him to perform at events and also do solo shows, including at birthday parties,” says the class VIII student of Don Bosco Matriculation School, Kannadasan Nagar, who regularly performs at the school's annual day and for television programmes. These children have other career ambitions but want to continue pursuing magic as long as it does not disrupt studies.

Magic vs academics?

Magicians, however, say there are not many youngsters taking it up as a hobby as academics come first. Also, some magicians are wary of teaching children as they would leak the secrets.

“More than the expense involved in learning magic, you need to give it time and have sustained focus. There are very few parents who would encourage children,” says magician T.K. Vadivel Pillai, founder of Indian Institute of Magical Sciences. He says that children are the best when it comes to entertaining people of their age group and some of them are preferred at birthday parties.

But, much more needs to be done if this art has to continue, says experts. Elango Shanmugan, who conducted a workshop for 30 students of Velammal School a couple of years ago, says schools should come forward and also be ready to pay us well.

Part of the curriculum

Gopinath Muthukad, who started Magic Academy in Thiruvananthapuram in 1996, says magic should be made part of the curriculum in schools. Not just to learn tricks. “Learning this art helps during a crisis management and develops ones personality,” he says. The two-month programme for children conducted during summer vacation is gaining popularity every year. “We get nearly 200 applications of which we shortlist 50. I get students from even Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu,” he adds.

With P.C. Sorcar Junior also planning to set up a magic school in Chennai, it seems that more youngsters are aspiring to turn magicians and promote the art.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012