I want to believe in magic

He can trick you into believing many things. Twenty-one year old Neel Madhav wants to bring magic to a whole new level in India, combining NLP, criminology and mentalism

Updated - February 03, 2015 07:35 pm IST

Published - February 03, 2015 07:21 pm IST

THERE ARE MANY FANS: Of traditional magic and card games even now in India Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

THERE ARE MANY FANS: Of traditional magic and card games even now in India Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

A card trick is a card trick, is a card trick. Right? Nope, not according to Neel Madhav. This new-age illusionist combines magic with mentalism, NLP or neuro-linguistic programming, and criminology and even teaches corporates how to better their business with it!

And to think he’s only 21, has a TV show running in his name, can levitate Coke cans and rupee notes, and is giving TED talks in colleges. In Bengaluru recently to inaugurate the cultural festival Cul-Ah! 2015 at Mount Carmel College, Neel Madhav was charmed that they called him “sir” till they saw him. He was also scouting around to shoot in the city for the second season of his show You Got Magicwith Neel Madhav , and was entertaining a house party with fellow magicians as soon as he swooped down on the city.

“We are going to check out Kalaripayattu, Bengaluru’s famous street food, Mount Carmel College, Egg Factory, a restaurant at Le Meridien…” he rattles off his plans in the city. A self-taught magician, he started learning off YouTube videos. He developed a serious interest in magic at the age of 16 after he met the world famous close up magician Jason Randall in America who spoke to him and performed for him and lit up a magical light in his head. Another chance meeting with magician James Randi (godfather of famous magicians like David Copperfield and Criss Angel) in Goa set Neel rolling on the path of magic.

“Contemporary magic is non-existent in India. It’s comedy and dance that get all the TV TRPs,” complains Neel. “People don’t appreciate magic as an art, as it’s supposed to be. The first image when you say ‘magician’ is that of a guy in a top hat, at a birthday party, surrounded by screaming kids,” he smiles. “While they are magicians too, Indian magic needs to be updated.”

But we are the land of the rope trick, the vanishing elephant, and dancing snakes, sawing girls in half, and P.C.Sorcars, I protest.

“It’s all these things. But there is a modern side to it; and we haven’t figured out how to do it yet!” Neel, though seems to have gathered all his resources to be in with the times. Throughout his student days he’s completed seven internships at MTV London, with a production house, with a social media organisation… “I have figured out what I have to know to make this show work,” he grins, like any other confident 21-year-old who knows his way around this world. It also helps that he co-produces his shows with his mother, who’s a veteran in the TV industry.

Neel is quick to reiterate that what he has is not a superpower. “It’s purely a skill. The illusion of creating magic is magic. It’s about creating an experience you will remember all your life. You and I may know it’s a trick…” What’s the difference between magic and illusion? “Its’ like how you have various doctors. There’s illusion, mentalism, street magic — they are all specialisations under the broad category of magic.” Neel practices between two to three hours every day. He has a team of magicians working with him on his team.

“Bengaluru has a lot of magicians. And India has the largest magicians group on Facebook, with 13,000 people! Can you imagine? But I’ve been doing magic seriously for the last five years now and in the first four years I never met even one magician!” Magicians do trade secrets, he says, but one of them has to take the first step and reveal his own secret. “Whoever says they have learnt everything is just full of themselves. I want to build magic up to the level and get it as much respect as comedy or music does right now. I want to believe in magic.”

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