May 4, 2011

INDIA: "Tricks of the trade - The brand I represent is old.”

CHENNAI, Tamil Nadu / The Hindu / Life & Style / May 3, 2011

By Anusha Parthasarathy

Abracadabra P.C. Sorcar Master  Photo: R. Shivaji Rao

P. C. Sorcar Master keeps Chennai-ites spellbound with his range of amazing acts

I was 12 when I saw my first Sorcar show. It was P.C. Sorcar Young (son of Protul Chandra Sorcar), with dramatic make-up, thick kohl-lined eyes and glittery clothes, who made me wish I sat in the front rows where the kids collected the candies he threw to the crowd, and shook hands with the magician.

The hall was packed and the audience gasped in wonder at every trick performed. Whispers of “Oh, you must concentrate on his hand” would lead to trying to catch the master of illusion at his own tricks.

Ten years later, after binging on David Blaine, Chris Angel and movies such as The Prestige and The Illusionist, I find myself in the front seat, looking at a much younger version of the Indian magician, his son Pouroosh Chandra Sorcar who is “somewhere above 25 and below 45”.

He isn't like the other Sorcars. There is no moustache or glittering make-up. He is younger, wears a smile throughout the evening and reveals that he plays the piano. His somewhat anglicised accent — reminiscent of the character played by Edward Norton in The Illusionist — lends a dramatic touch to his act.

It is a classic Sorcar evening though with the signature ‘Water of India', ‘Temple of Banaras' and ‘House of Magic' tricks. In a sparkling red Sherwani and turban, Pouroosh makes an entry by magically appearing out of the life-sized Sorcar Family Album and going on to make women disappear and ducks and pigeons appear.

A family tradition

The tricks haven't changed much between father and son; Pouroosh suggests that in part he is continuing a family tradition.

“Many of the older people who come to see my show want to have that 50s feel when my grandfather and father were at their best. While I can jazz up the act, I have my limitations because the brand I represent is old.”

Even the simplest tricks defy imagination. It's like an Agatha Christie novel, where nothing is as it seems. When I confess this to the magician, he laughs: “There are many ways to do an illusion,” he says, adding, “People have been revealing tricks since my grandfather's age. But that only increases people's curiosity rather than harming the trade itself.”

While the dubbed screams for his dangerous and “risky” acts seem overly contrived, his sense of humour draws laughs from the crowd. There is the usual sword, separation and dematerialising tricks, with a desi twist.

Pouroosh's finale, ‘World of ghosts', seems a bit trite with glow-in-the-dark skeletons chattering around the stage and crockery and furniture going out of control. But as he disappears from the stage and appears on the other side of the hall, the crowd bursts into applause and people gather around to congratulate him.

Candies are always a delight, no matter how old you are. As Pouroosh showers the first couple of rows with chocolates appearing out of nowhere, it's not just the children who are jumping with joy. A man sneaks up behind my chair to quietly pick up the chocolates that have fallen into the seat next to mine.

“Chennai always responds well to magic,” says Pouroosh, a ninth generation magician in his family. “That's why we love coming here.” The expectant crowd, which waits to take pictures and autographs after the show, is a confirmation of this. As I pass a teenager who comes out from the back with a paper displaying his signature, I hear her mother say, “Stick it in your book.”

The P.C. Sorcar magic show is on in Chennai till May 29

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