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Promoting peace through magic

Gopinath Muthukad uses magic shows to arouse patriotic fervour and promote national integration. His `Vismaya Bharatha Yatra' is a journey with a mission to spread the message of unity.


MAGICAL MESSAGE: Gopinath Muthukad, who is touring the country with his `Vismaya Bharatha' show, touches on city-specific issues.

JO AAP dekhenge nazron ka dhokha hai, tamasha hai yeh do haathon ka, sang Kumar Sanu for Amitabh Bachchan in Prakash Mehra's `Jaadugar'. For, magic is indeed the art of deceit, misdirection and, above all, sleight of hand. Gopinath Muthukad is using this very art to arouse patriotic fervour and promote national integration, through his `Vismaya Bharatha Yatra'.

Distressed at the strife in society, Muthukad decided magic could be an effective instrument to promote national integration. The `Vismaya Bharatha Yatra' was born out of this decision. "I want to spread the message of unity among all Indians. I want to remind every Indian about the struggle for Independence and ask whether this freedom from British rule means we can fight each other in the name of religion or culture," explains Muthukad about his two-and-a-half month programme. The `Vismaya Bharata Yatra' was flagged off on Independence Day at Kanyakumari by the Kerala Chief Minister, A. K. Antony. Since then, it has criss-crossed across Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu before entering Andhra Pradesh. "The response to all the shows in the South has been tremendous. The crowds have been overflowing at every place," says Muthukad. The magic shows touch upon city specific issues such as the sandalwood smuggler Veerappan in Bangalore and patriotism at Chennai. The Yatra next moves to the North-east and then across to Gujarat and Rajasthan, and then Kashmir, before finally reaching New Delhi on October 31 for an audience with the Prime Minister, A. B. Vajpayee.

Muthukad is making an effort to help the common man see through the `divine powers' that many men in ochre supposedly possess. "Bringing out ash (vibhuti) or a Shiva linga is a simple magic trick. Doing that does not mean the person has magical powers. I think magicians are the best persons to educate people about these superstitions," he says.

Talking of magic as a profession, Muthukad feels it calls for huge initial investment, with the returns being hardly attractive the first few years. The infrastructure requirement (props and sets) costs a fortune. He recalls, "I hail from Nilambur in Kerala and my father was worried when I told him that I was keen on taking up a career in magic. He insisted I finish my education first before venturing into this field. Today, there are 25 people in my troupe - all full-timers - who earn their livelihood out of magic."

Accolades are nothing new to Muthukad, who has been honoured by several organisations, both in the country and abroad. Some of his more remarkable feats include the car and elephant vanishing acts, the Houdini fire escape act and the Bhishma Pitamaha escape act. What does it take to be a successful magician? "Hard work and practice," he quips. "Plus the power of suggestion, art of misdirection and dexterity of hands and showmanship." And he also stresses the need to learn more and keep adding new tricks. Muthukad's future plans include developing the Magic Academy in Thiruvananthapuram into an international magic theatre to provide world-class training in magic. Ask him how he does all that, all he says is "I did it well, didn't I?"

SUDHEENDRA PUTTY

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