July 21st, 2007. The last Harry Potter book will be out - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The world will finally know whether Harry lives or dies, whether Dumbledore is really dead and hopefully, also the meaning of ‘hallows’! (I have heard of gallows. What the hell is hallows??)
It will be the end of a story that is credited with bringing magic in the real world as well. Not just in the metaphorical sense of the word, but real tangible magic.
A near bankrupt, single mother of two became richer than the Queen of England because of Harry. In an age of internet, X-Box and mind numbing television, there is a renewed interest in reading among children thanks to Harry. A spectacles designer became an overnight millionaire after the first Harry Potter movie came out. An unknown child actor is the most recognized face in the world and has gone on to become a mainstream star thanks to Harry. These things do not happen everyday. That’s why they are ‘magic’!
But this blog is not on Harry Potter. I will save that for some other time. This blog is about two other magicians who got me interested in magic in the first place.
It all started with Pradeep Chandra Sorcar, better known by his bobbitised nomenclature of PC Sorcar Jr.
My family knew Jr’s dad, the legendary PC “Manick” Sorcar (the father of Indian magic). I think it was the Bangladesh connection through which the families were friends. Our families were both from Tangail district in what is now known as Bangladesh.
I had heard stories of how Sr. Sorcar would come late on stage with the crowd angry and baying for his blood. Then he would look puzzled at his watch and say “But I am on time! Check your watches”. Then lo and behold, all the wrist watches in the crowd would be showing the “right time” and the hall would burst into thunderous applause.Thats him in the pic. Giving the signature Sorcar family 'cheshire cat grin' smile.
Another famous story was how he impressed Chief Minister AK Fazlul Huq by performing a magic trick at the Imperial Restaurant in Calcutta. First he asked the Chief Minister to write something on a plain sheet of paper and then asked the other ministers to put their signatures under it. A short while later Fazlul Huq was amazed to see that the paper contained his cabinet's resignation and the appointment of PC Sorcar as the new chief minister of Bengal.
I would listen to this these stories with wide eyed, jaw slumping awe, over and over again from my great grand mom during the afternoons. They never failed to impress me.
So when Dad got tickets to the PC Sorcar Jr. “Indra-jaal” (Web of magic) show I was skipping around and flinging daisies in the air in joy. I was going to a magic show! My first magic show, and it was going to be PC Sorcar Jr.! (Sr. had passed away before I was born). He was known to be as talented as the father and had a very similar look.
I remember the show vividly. The dimming of the lights, the deep, ‘magical’ voice saying “Welcome to Indraaaaaaajaaaaaal”, followed by enchanting music and the image of two hands and eyes on the stage backdrop.
Oh those eyes! Big, hypnotic, magician eyes. I will never forget them.
The next two hours were, well, magical! Nothing was impossible in Indra-jaal. There were no rules here. Women were cut in two and still alive, PC could read clearly through a blindfold, a pitcher of water never got empty, an Egyptian princess disappeared from under a table and then reappeared from behind the hall, and the handicapped girl who he helped walk again by first making her float in the air. He also beat a large man on the head with a wooden hammer and made him a midget! It was fantastic.
I was totally involved and engaged. In the middle I let loose a ear piercing shriek, when he cut his wife in two, which prompted the middle aged fat lady in front of me to turn back and ask with panic in her voice:
“Ki holo??!! Aarshola achche naaki kothao?? KI HOLO??”
(What happened? Is there a cockroach somewhere? WHAT HAPPENED?)
Everyone has their own fears I guess. I wanted yell “He cut his wife in two you moron, and you are worried about a damn cockroach! HE CUT HER IN TWO!” but decided against it. I wanted the show to go on.
For days after, I was thinking and dreaming about magic. I was hooked. I was captivated with the thought of anything is possible. I was a believer. Strangely, it was the only magic show I ever went to in my life, and in a way I am happy I never went back.
A repeat performance by anyone could never have matched the intensity of that evening. I have seen David Copperfield on TV and various other street magicians, including the amazing David Blaine. They are all extremely good, and their presentation makes the ‘dhin-chak’ magic of PC look slightly outdated. But I never really enjoyed their shows much. My grown up rational mind is always trying to figure out ‘how they did it’. I guess with age and education, the ‘magic’ has gone out of magic for me.
As far as I am concerned, PC Sorcar will always remain the ‘World’s Greatest Magician’, the ‘Maharajah of Magic’! The fact that he is also the single largest ‘individual’ foreign exchange earner for India makes me feel that I saw the best.
It was PC who got me interested in magic and, for the first time, I thought of something other than cricket all the time (another mini magic!). It was this interest that took to me to the second magician in my life.
I will write about him and my (futile) attempts at practicing the craft on my friends and family in Part 2.