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Metro Plus    Chennai   

Treat of feats

Magician P.M. Mithra is casting a spell over magic buffs in the city. In a brief chat he touches upon various facets of his art. The show is on till May 12 at Rani Seethai Hall.

The curtains of glitter part. The eerie background score reaches a crescendo. The spartan stage sports only a sleek bench. A woman in shimmering attire lies motionless on it. Crackling with confidence, the showman takes centre stage and with agile movements begins his feat. As he waves his hands upwards, the body of the woman who is obviously under a spell, rises. In minutes, she floats in mid air. And all those scientific laws of gravity are tossed out...

Even before the electric applause subsides, the ace magician has yet another feat up his sleeve. This time, Kerala's own Houdini makes a great escape from a sealed wooden box... in a jiffy. And it's undiluted appreciation this time too. Enter the world of P.M. Mithra's "Mayajal".

Having come to Chennai this holiday season, Mithra is performing consecutively till May 12 (daily 7.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m.), at Rani Seethai Hall, near Gemini flyover (bookings can be made at the venue counter from 9.30 a.m.). The highlights of the show include "visual cutting" (in which a woman is cut into two), "visual diminishing lady" (an adult is shrunk to the size of an infant), "spikes through the body", "flying lady", Houdini's escape and items based on geometric shapes. All this besides the usual "flying/vanishing objects" that are an evergreen hit with children.

Though flushed with exhaustion, the magician spontaneously consents to talk about his art during one of his rehearsals. The world of magic caught Mithra's fancy when he was a child. And he straightaway took the plunge. "It's a risk-ridden art that demands tremendous practice and meticulous planning. Even a small slip could spell disaster to one's reputation."

After rigorous training, Mithra launched "Mayajal" in 1982. A string of solo shows followed. But despite having tasted success, he was not willing to let up even for a day... "Magic like any other art, demands constant improvisation and experimentation. Otherwise, it would become stale. After all, we are entertainers and we need to give the audience something fresh every time," he says with an effusive sparkle packed into a single grin.

Mithra goes on, "Magic is a combination of well-thought out presentation, skill, practice and of course... some secrets". Secrets? "Yes," but like all magicians, he evades divulging details with a smile. "It's also about creating illusions and playing on psychology. Nevertheless... It IS an art. And like all arts, demands total commitment."

The magician, who has come to Chennai with the first ever "Visual diminishing" feat, claims, "This is the first of its kind in the country. And perhaps, the first time in the world when a woman's body is shrunk to the size of a baby openly before an audience." Mithra's future plans include "The great underwater escape on the Marina" (a chained Mithra will be locked in a box and airdropped mid-sea. In minutes, he will surface on the shore), "Vanishing Building" (he plans to make a whole building in the city disappear for a few minutes a la P.C.Sorcar's "Vanishing Taj Mahal".)

When pointed out that some of the feats are gruesome, Mithra explains, "People understand that it's just a trick on the eye... an illusion. And such things last for just a few minutes. We plan the programme in such a way that such items are followed by lively, light-hearted presentations."

Comparing the scene here with that in Western countries, the magician says, "Our art is by far supreme. Most musicians abroad rely heavily on special effects and presentation skills. Nevertheless, this hoary art is badly in need of government support here. I, for my part, plan to start a school for magic in the near future."

T.KRITHIKA REDDY

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