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The magic of showmanship

Magic has been Prahlad Acharya's passion and he has used this skill not just to entertain people but also to create social, health, and political awareness.


Sawing a woman into two

LIKE EVERY magician worth his trick, Prahlad Acharya, who performed at the Town Hall recently, looks up to legends like Harry Houdini, David Copperfield, P.C. Sorcar, and our very own Uday Jadugar.

This humble and talented man from Udupi has been performing magic shows for the last 14 years. He is a partner of the Yakshaloka Magical Entertainers, the only entertainment company of its kind in Karnataka, which is a team comprising 20 members. He caught the bug very young. "When I was in school, I saw many magic shows and wanted to learn how to perform those tricks."

Prahlad taught himself the tricks of the trade through extensive reading. Today he's good enough to perform the escape stunts Houdini once did. He tried it out in public for the first time in 1993, when he locked himself in a box which was thrown into a lake. Prahlad took just 23 seconds to emerge from the water.

Magic as a performing art requires years of practice and a well-honed sense of showmanship. Accidents are common in this field and Prahlad has also faced a few bad moments. "Sometimes when your timing is off, there is a risk of an accident occurring," he says.

Prahlad and his team have performed over 1,600 shows to date. Though they have toured the country, they concentrate on the rural areas of Karnataka. All their shows convey social messages such as importance of voting, polio inoculation, and AIDS awareness.


Prahlad Acharya providing his audience a colourful spectacle.

Did he face any discouragement from his family when he showed his keenness to become a magician? At first his parents dismissed his obsession as a hobby. Not surprisingly, they were a little apprehensive about his taking up magic as a career. But today they are proud of his achievements.

Even as he taught himself the art of magic he also completed his law degree.

It was a struggle but Prahlad succeeded in carving out a niche for himself in the world of magic.

He was awarded the Outstanding Magician Award at Vismayam 2000, the International Convention of Magic at Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, in December 2000.

Prahlad recently had a successful series of performances at the Town Hall entitled Maya Jadoo. The shows, typically, were full of drama, complete with colourful costumes and traditional themes. The audience, mostly children, thoroughly enjoyed themselves during the standard routine items Prahlad disappearing from a locked box, his going through a glass sheet, the levitating girl, and so on. The shows were an interplay of magic, comedy, social skits, ventriloquism, and shadow play.

Prahlad wishes to pursue and promote shadow play which, he laments, is a dying art. His team is scheduled to perform in Tumkur next.

Prahlad's most memorable performance was at the Swedish Embassy in March, where he performed the legendary rope trick. According to him, the rope trick can be performed only outdoors, in open spaces. He demonstrates a simple rope trick, where he places a coil of rope on the ground and plays the been like a snake charmer. Suddenly the rope becomes stiff and stands upright, and he climbs up the rope!

Does he play pranks on his family and friends? "Yes of course I do but, my wife plays more pranks on me!" Prahlad also admits that he uses magic to charm his way to the front of a queue, with shopkeepers or even to keep a party going!

REKHA MENON

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