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Abracadabra!

Liza George enters the enchanted world of magician Gopinath Muthukad

Photos (cover and right) C. Ratheesh Kumar

Conjuror Gopinath Muthukad

It was his father’s bedtime stories of magician Vazhakkunnam Namboothiri that opened the world of magic to Gopinath Muthukad. His favourite tale was the one in which the magician turned a tile into a snake and frightened a sceptic who was taunt ing him. “That tale fascinated me as there was this relative I did not get along with and I wanted to pull that prank on him,” says Muthukad with a grin.

A family retainer who “cried out in astonishment and glee at my tricks,” boosted his resolve to learn the art form.

To learn the art of magic, his father sent him to Vazhakkunnam Namboothiri himself. “I trained under him during the weekends. He taught me tricks such as ‘rope cutting’ and ‘ball multiplying,” says this graduate in mathematics.

“In fact when my father realised that I was hooked to magic, he decided to pack me off to Bangalore to do law,” says Muthukad who hails from Nilambur.

However, magic had already cast its spell on Muthukad. “I returned home with a resolve to pursue magic, only to find myself kicked out by my father, who was disappointed with my decision.”

And then it was a struggle to the top for this magician who is now known as the ‘Houdini of India.’ “It was tough. I started off with stage shows for schools and festivals.”

On the cards

Like most magicians, Muthukad started with card tricks, coin tricks and making handkerchiefs disappear. A book presented by his friend, ‘The Secrets of Houdini’ changed his life.

“It explained the way to perform Houdini’s tricks and I started practising his acts,” says this magician who has done various ‘escape tricks’ such as ‘water torture escape’ act, ‘spike escape’ and ‘underwater escape.’ Muthukad’s first break happened in the city, when he decided to do a Houdini Fire Escape Act.

“It was the first of its kind in Kerala and the media covered it extensively. In fact it was the publicity garnered from that act that boosted my morale,” says Muthukad, an ardent admirer of magician David Copperfield. “Copperfield makes a drama out of every act.”

And taking a cue from Copperfield, Muthukad too started spicing up his acts. “I mix magic, dance and drama to keep the audience under my spell.”

According to Muthukad, magic is pure science. “It has physics, chemistry, maths and psychology blended into an art form. All we magicians do is put up a black curtain in front of it so that it becomes magic,” says this magician who demonstrated some of his tricks in his kitty in a television programme called ‘Vismayam.’

Says Muthukad who believes magic should be shared: “That is why I did the show and also started Magic Academy, a first of its kind institute for magic in India and perhaps Asia, which trains wannabe magicains.”

Muthukad also believes in using his magic for a good cause. “Magic speaks a universal language. It can break down any language barrier, cultural barrier et al.”

In a bid to spread his message of national integration, Muthukad goes on various yatras. “Although we are all Indians, we are still divided in the name of religion and culture. I want to spread the message of unity. As magic is an art that fascinates the young and the old, I thought I’d spread the idea of national integration through my yatras and magic performances,” says the magician who has organised Visway Swaraj Yatra in 2007, Vismaya Bharata Yatra in 2000 and Gandhi Mantra in 2004.

“The message I intend to popularise is written in a skit that incorporates several magic tricks,” says Muthukad.

Research centre

What next? “ I have started a Magic Academy Research Centre in Kazhakuttam. I hope to bring in street magicians from across the country and record their various tricks starting from the green mango trick (a traditional Indian magic trick in which a planted mango seed is covered with a basket. As the magician plays a tune on the flute, the seedling grows) to the Indian rope trick. Street magic is fast fading away and we need to preserve it for the future. The magicians will perform their tricks for visitors to the centre. We also plan to educate their children.”

And any new tricks? “I plan to do a trick that can be felt and experienced by all. For example, making the moon invisible to all at night...”

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