Jul 11, 2008

Entertainment - Magicians get organised

NEW DELHI: Magicians are getting organised, with businesses calling on their services for product promos, launches, brand shows, entertainment or mere motivation. University of Hogwarts is not alone. Most Indian magicians are now floating their companies, hosting websites and launching training academies for future wizardry. If PC Sorcar Jr has trained his eyes on a University of Magic in Kolkata this November, Gopinath Muthukad’s Magic Academy is thriving in Thiruvananthapuram. Besides, brands such as LIC, Unitech, Reliance Infocomm, Siemens, Philips, Union Bank of India and a host of other companies are relying on magicians for the push factor, downturn or upturn, ha! When Sorcar made the Taj Mahal disappear through illusion, he was approached by a bevy of brands that draw succour from the ‘Taj’ prefix. In the same vein, Muthukad, Upendra Thakur, PR Akash and a horde of magicians have sniffed an opportunity in corporate India, and will not let go in a hurry. The most accomplished of the Indian magicians, PC Sorcar Jr, is no stranger to fortune. Third in the line of a magician family, he recalls how his father PC Sorcar Sr signed up with Shirley Maclaine for shows in her Las Vegas casino. “My company, Indrajaal, still conducts those shows,” he contends with a certain pride. With 156 people, two lions and an elephant, Sorcar conducts approximately 400 shows a year. And with his sleight of hand, he commands sponsorships from pen to pen-drive makers. In the wake of the millennium, the Raunaq Group even roped him in as brand ambassador. The 45-year-old Gopinath Muthukad started out with his own brand of magic at the age of seven, and set up his Muthukad Magical Entertainers in 1985. Today, he has 30 members in his company, and is also credited with his 12-year-old Magic Academy at Thiruvananthapuram that churns out 20 magicians every year. Admittedly, he makes about Rs 1 crore a year with about 70-75 shows thrown in. “Last year, when LIC launched a product, we created a special show around it, and likewise, for Union Bank of India,” says Muthukad. For tyros, here’s how the LIC show was conducted—four jars were placed on the table with one jar containing this new LIC product. Three people from the audience were called on to the stage randomly to choose the jars. Whichever jar they picked up, the one containing the policy always went to Muthukad. Here’s his repartee: “Don’t be disappointed. You may also approach your LIC agent for a policy”. For the Delhi-based Upendra Thakur, retail has opened up a new roadmap to ring in the money. “Mall developers are calling me daily and I’ve already performed at MGF Metropolitan Mall, DT Mall and City Centre Mall in Gurgaon,” he says, adding that his rates vary from Rs 5,000-10,000 per day for just a couple of hours’ performance in the malls. Besides, regular shows elsewhere fetches him “more”. The man from Darbhanga came to Delhi in 1996 and set up his business as a one-man-show. “Even today, I hire people from the market on daily wages,” he maintains. But pressing demand from retailers and brands is making him rethink. “It’s time I operate more like a company and that’s why I’m scouting for investments,” he says. He’s currently working for Unitech’s Adventure Island on a Rs 1.5-lakh per month contract, and has earlier done promos for Reliance Infocomm, Whirlpool, Etihad Airways, Philips , Siemens, T9 and auto component maker H1 India. Ditto for PR Akash, who has his own magic brand under ‘The Miracle World’ banner. “Magic is an art with a lot of R&D thrown in, implying high investment. While it’ll be nice to get investors in my company, they should be ready to invest in costly processes,” he says. Though Akash has been dabbling in magic for conferences, hotels and resorts and malls for a while now, “I’m awaiting my real big order from Airtel”.

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