The Merchant of Vanish will be up to his old tricks this fortnight in Vashi and Chembur. The shows – organised by the National Bombay Bengali Association to raise money for its cancer patients’ home – is bringing Sorcar back to Mumbai after more than a decade. Sorcar, who hails from a magical tradition that goes back eight generations, will be performing this fortnight with his daughter, Maneka. He tells Time Out what audiences can look forward to.
Can we expect to see any new tricks in your upcoming show?
I always include new innovations. That is why I’m still performing after more than 44 years. But let them be a surprise. Among old favourites, I will be performing one of my classics called X-Ray Eyes. It is all about how you can impress people like Amartya Sen or Abdul Kalam. When I ask them to come [on stage] and ask a question and when they get a proper answer from me, they find this doubly magical. “How come you knew of it?” they ask. But it is top secret. [I will also perform] Indrajaal, which means influencing the five sense organs. Another favourite trick is called Water of India through [which] Hindu philosophy is projected.
What was it like to have a magician as a father?
I would feel sorry for my friends’ fathers because they do not perform magic. They cannot float in the air! My father, even if the water connection was cut off, would conjure water out of thin air and pour the water on his head (laughs). I didn’t know that he was a magician. I thought that every father is like this. Then I discovered that other fathers cannot make their teacup float in the air. I thought they are backward. The day when [my father] was performing at a show in Kolkata at Chhaya theater, he had to run across the auditorium and while running he got hurt. When he came back home he was limping. I couldn’t believe that my magician father is limping.
My father, my papa, he had a special chamber where he used to concentrate, practice magic. We didn’t know how to get in. But I wanted to go in and see what he does, so I discovered a duplicate key of the room, and whenever he was out, I used to sneak in and see the things. The room adjoining that special room, it had a window like a sky hole. I used to climb atop the almirah and watch my father. And then I learned that the tricks he does on stage are all mechanical things based on science, and that he is a human being.
Every afternoon in those days I used to spend time there, learning magic secretly. My father never knew of it, but whenever he used to go out, I would sneak into the room and play the role of my father. And what an experience it was! All of a sudden all the lights were on, I could see thousands of people sitting and applauding, waiting for me to perform. And I looked at myself, properly dressed as a magician, and I was doing magic [trick] after magic [trick], whatever my father explained. And whatever he could not explain, I did that also. And when I heard the sound of the car coming back, I used to tell my imaginary crowd that for now the show is finished, I will come again tomorrow. Then I locked the door and came out. My father never knew, and that’s how I learnt magic.
How did you impart the tradition to your daughter?
Now I am facing competition. She is better than me. And if I see that you people are appreciating my daughter more than what this old man is doing, I’ll simply kill you (laughs). On a serious note, I’m really proud of my daughter. And, you know, the goddess of magic is Mahamaya Durga Mata.
How do audiences from different countries react to your magic tricks?
It depends on their socio-cultural background. When I performed in Iran, people didn’t like the idea of sawing through a lady. But the same item when I performed in Hong Kong, people were so happy. In Russia [they liked] whatever mechanical things I performed. In France, they were excited by magic; the acting, the mathematics, they appreciated that. So it is a mixed reaction, depending on the culture of the people.
By Mrudula Andhare on June 08 2012 11.31am