Gopinath Muthukad now wants to use magic to promote social cause, writes Liza George
He scoffs when people call magic, acts of the supernatural. Instead he calls it “100 per cent science.” Says magician Gopinath Muthukad: “It is a blend of all sciences: mathematics, physics, psychology…Behind the curtains magic is science, but on stage, it’s a work of art.”
A magician who has been compared to Harry Houdini, Muthukad recalls that it was one of Houdini’s tricks that won him recognition.
“It was a show at Putharikandam Maidan in the city. I performed Houdini’s ‘Fire Escape’ act. The trick won me applaud and recognition.”
A native of Kavala Mukkatta, a village in Nilambur, Muthukad says he came up the hard way. “There was no academy for magic then. I learnt the art from renowned magicians such as Vazhakkunnam Namboothiri, Malayath and P.C. Sorcar Jr. I have also gone abroad to learn the art. In fact, I am still learning.”
Although his father supported Muthukad’s interest as a child, he put his foot down later on. “My father thought it was just a hobby. He said “No” when I wanted to start a troupe after my graduation in mathematics from Manjeri NSS College. Magicians then were usually restricted to street performances, and my father feared such a life for me so he packed me off to Bangalore for LLB.”
But Muthukad was bitten hard by the magic bug and returned after a year in Bangalore. “My father was furious and kicked me out of the house. I then lived in a small shed. There I read up books on Houdini. As I was alone and had time on my hands, I tried out his tricks. Then I got the offer to perform at Putharikandam Maiden and there was no turning back,” says Muthukad.
Death defying acts
While Muthukad has done it all from vanishing cars and elephants to death defying acts such as ‘Water Torture’ and ‘Life or Death,’ he says his first ever stage performance was a dampener. “I was to perform with Vazhakkunnam. As I was all nerves, I fumbled throughout,” says Muthukad who tries a new trick in most of his performances.
But how does he come up with a new trick? “Actually there are 13 effects: production, perception, vanishing, stretching, extra sensory perception, levitation… It is a combination of two or three of these effects that you create a new trick.”
India, according to Muthukad, has a rich history of magic. “We have tricks such as the Indian rope trick, the mango tree trick and the cup and ball trick,” says the magician who finds Western magic more technical. “Western magicians rely on technical help like magnets for example. We, on the other hand, rely on skill.”
A fan of David Copperfield, he says that Copperfield’s style of presentation is mind-blowing. “He is a magician among magicians. Even I can’t make out how he does his tricks,” says Muthukad who feels magic should be shared. In fact, the magician shares his knowledge at his Academy of Magic in the city.
“The late novelist Malayattoor Ramakrishnan was a patron of magic and wanted an institute for magic. It was based on his dream that we started the institute.”
He goes on to add that magic is also an effective tool to promote social causes. Perhaps one of the few magicians to blend magic with a cause, Muthukad who is back from a 60-day Visway Swaraj Yatra which cut across the country says, “I was dismayed at the state of our country’s affairs. Although we have got our independence as a country, we are still fighting wars in the name of religion and even culture. I wanted to spread the message of unity.
“As magic is an art which fascinates the young and old, I thought I’d try and instil the fervour of national integration through my yatra and magic performances,” says the magician who had also held a Vismaya Bharata Yatra in 2000 and a Gandhi Mantra in 2004.
“The message I intend to carry across is instilled via a skit which incorporates several magic tricks.”
He is now preparing with his troupe to go across the country spreading awareness on HIV and AIDS.
“It will be a grand trip held in association with the Health Department. Our tricks will be mostly illusions and we have already started practice for it. We will be most likely starting our journey in June 2008.”