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A message up his sleeve



With the renowned magician P.C. Sorcar Jr.

The art of magic is as old as mankind itself. Right from the stone age, voodoo and black magic have been part of the social system. The Vedas are replete with records of tribal magic and "Mayajaal" and most Indians are born with a good knowledge of the art.

However, it was P.C. Sorcar Sr. who gave this art the right direction on stage and the roadside village performers found a sizzling platform to showcase their skills and sleight of hand. He further added fanfare and drama to this presentation and made it as glamorous as a theatre show.

In AP barring a few names like B.V. Pattabhiram, Krantikar and Shado, very few magicians have risen above mediocrity in the field. But from such a bleak scenario rose a Goliath of a performer in Challapilla Shyamsunder Rao from Vizianagaram and today he is acknowledged as the forerunner of 'new generation magic' in India.

Better known as "Dove Shyam", he modifies international tricks with the dove, the embodiment of peace, and has developed his own style over the last ten years. His gurus, N. Nagabhushan from

Vizianagaram, Ratnakar Rao from Vizag, B.N.S. Kumar from Hyderabad and the famous K.C. Tripathi from Kolkata, saw the spark in this performer from the beginning.



Shyamsunder Rao who earned the epithet 'Dove Shyam'

His first stage show was at the tender age of seven at Srikakulam and he has never looked back thereafter. College education went hand in hand with stage work and when he left the BVK College portals armed with a degree he realised his yearning to become a professional magician was too strong to resist. Despite strong objection from his family, who were shocked at this thought, Shyam took his step forward to foray into the thrilling world.

Between 1985 and 1990 he participated in all national level magic contests and took the top honours in most, and 1991 saw him rise like a star. The Department of Cultural Affairs' prestigious show at Hyderabad and "Mayajaalam" organised by Dr. Pattabhiram launched Shyam as the first ever "body load" magician in India. He would walk onto any stage with absolutely no props - no table, no wand and no assistants - only with his sweet smile and vivid expressions, and would materialise exciting objects out of nothing!

In 1996 he took the first ever gold medal for India at an international magic show in the "concept" category. At the 1996 Telugu Mahasabha he overawed the cine director, B.S. Reddy, and the Revenue Minister, Ashok Gajapathi Raju, who felicitated him with the title "Maya Raja". The P.C Sorcar Magic Fest which followed at Bhubaneswar was a turning point in his career and he won accolades from PC. Sorcar Jr. The same year, T.V.K. Sastry of the Madras Telugu Academy invited Shyam to perform at the Spirit of Unity Concerts in Mumbai.

Amongst Shyam's ardent fans are the great C. Narayana Reddy, megastar Chiranjeevi, the Home Minister, Devender Goud, playback singer S. Janaki, Jandhyala Papayya Sastry (`Karunasri'), comedian Nutan Prasad and the Kamakoti Sanakaracharya Sri Jayendra Saraswati. Sorcar Jr. accepted Shyam as the "crest jewel" on the crown of modern Indian magic at a public show.

But amidst all this adulation, something was missing in the young Shyam's life. Pained by the deteriorating social values around him and the abject poverty of rural India made this kind-hearted human being ponder. Soon, he devised a unique methodology and became a street teacher taking magic back onto the streets of rural India. He enrolled himself in Goverment-aided programmes as a volunteer and travelled along with the Visakha Grameena Bank to conduct 40 road shows in north Andhra on "How to improve your life by saving money". He has addressed more than 500 groups, and more than one lakh villagers have enjoyed Shyam's extolation of varied topics ranging from AIDS awareness to female infanticide through the vehicle of mute magic. His weekly classes for women at the National Adult Education Programme at Vizianagaram go house full and most students bring along guests to his sessions. He has become the unofficial judge, referee and friend who is summoned to sort out any problems in these areas. To the simple rustics, Shyam's word is law!

This self-made man has carved a unique brand "Shyam Mayaajalam" at the level of the villages. His every act has a social message which is easy to grasp. He is the unsung hero of the rural masses, and is always in search of new concepts and ideas. The Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, was so impressed with him at the Telugu Mahanadu in Vizag a few years ago that he immediately inducted Shyam into Janmabhoomi to propagate Velugu, Neeru-Meeru, etc., through magic. Whether it is a demonstration of the CMEY programme or a discussion on five-year plans, Shyam's magic is always the curtain-raiser.

"The year 1988 was a turning point in my career when magic came to be accepted officially as a fine art in AP and my dream became a reality," he says. With over 10,000 shows in ten years, he works tirelessly with his finger on the pulse of his spectators. His happiest moments were while performing in West Bengal - the cradle of magic in India - and winning the first ever P.C. Sorcar gold medal.

Incidentally Shaym is also a trained Carnatic vocalist, Bharatanatyam dancer, small time cine actor and artist co-ordinator. He is always on the look-out for rural talent to promote. Recently he coordinated for 400 folk artistes from 18 villages of coastal Andhra to perform with the pop singer, Malgadi Shuba, at the inauguration 32nd National Games in Visakhapatnam and the officials of the Indian Olympic Association were impressed with the colourful and well choreographed show.

His small role as the magician in M.V. Raghu's `Kallu' and S.T. Raja's `Venella' is still talked about in cine circles. Today he has classes all over the district and trains poor students in the art. He even gifts them with basic magic kits to start them off.

Shortly, he will open Vizag's first Magic Studio. "Magic to Message" is Shyam's punchline. With a soft smile and sleight of hand, the magician pulls a piece of cloth from nowhere that transforms into our national flag and ends by simply saying "Vande Mataram". India should be proud of Shyam.

MEENAKSHI ANANTRAM

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