We all have gone to Magic Shows when we were kids. The set up, the illusion, the tricks, used to leave us awestruck. There have been many movies based on Magic, latest being Dhoom 3. Its a high probability that you must have watched a show by O P Sharma. If not, you must have seen his hoardings in your town.
Jadugar O P Sharma, also known as the fastest magician was born in Kanpur. He has innovated and performed many tricks like disappearing Taj Mahal, making an elephant appear from thin air and bringing movie characters out of the screen & sending them back. Mythical India got a chance to interact with the legend. He talks about the challenges faces by the industry, minimal support from the government and how he has re invented his tricks to give something new to his audience every time. Here are the excerpts from the exclusive interview.
1) You have been practicing magic for more than 35 years now with more than 33000 shows performed according to the information available on internet. When was the first time in your life when you thought that I should pursue magic?
This all started when I was in 2nd standard, nearly 7 or 8 years old. I performed a small act and it was widely appreciated by the students and teachers alike. I became the center of attraction and started performing magic tricks on Friday every week.
Nobody in my family had a background in performing magic. But, my elder brother was my real strength who supported my interest. I still remember him visiting during summer holidays and working on magic tricks with me. As I grew older, I started reading books about magic and continued my studies in parallel. I’m a Mechanical Engineer too and had a full-fledged job before I decided to perform commercial Magic shows from 1971.
2) Who has been your idol whom you have followed or somebody who inspired you during this long journey?
I’ve always tried to learn from others, imbibe whatever good qualities they have. I was truly mesmerized by the shows of Magician K Lal and he inspired to make my shows magnificent. Presentation is crucial in this field. Magician Anand taught me how to do business.
3) We’ve followed many magicians like PC Sorcar, K Lal and you of course. The one thing we found common was that all three of you at a later point in your life started performing shows with your sons. Is this a coincidence or it’s a necessity of the profession?
Well, its not coincidence. In one way or another, my whole family is involved in this. I’ve four children and all of them are engineers. My second child, who is also a Mechanical engineer, O P Sharma Jr., performs stage shows with me and my third one is a Textile engineer and looks after my head office and the marketing part of this business.
4) Coming on to your shows, what are the preparations usually involved to be ready for performing a show in front of the audience? And how much time it takes to be show ready?
A lot of work goes into doing a show. Hence, we have a team for everything. For e.g. We have a survey team which goes into different cities to know the demand. Then, we have a marketing team which helps in the publicity by putting posters, hoardings and holding press conferences. Usually, the marketing work starts 20-25 days ahead of the actual start of the shows. I have a pretty big team of around 200 people.
5) How much you need to innovate while performing so many shows? Because, we read somewhere that Magicians are not that popular in India due to the lack of innovation and lack of new magic tricks. Do you agree with this?
Well, this is my 3rd round of India tour and made it a point to change everything from one tour to another. It involves not only magic tricks but also the stage, lighting, costumes etc. We want to make this show more entertaining and value for money. We don’t to scare people through our tricks and believe me people thoroughly enjoy the 150 minute shows.
6) If we ask you that one thing that you did in past 2-3 years that helped in the betterment of our society. What would that be?
As I was talking about my shows, we have started giving social messages through my show. Recently, we have focused on societal issues like Female foeticide, Superstition, Drug abuse etc. We have also launched a crusade against those self-proclaimed godman who cheat people by doing magic tricks and claim it to be a miracle. We have challenged such people to come forward and perform in front of us but sadly no one has accepted our challenge. I have also written books where I have mentioned some usual tricks performed to dupe people and made people aware about them.
7) You have performed more than 36000 shows and you have performed at one place more than once too. So, do you have any favorite place where the audience is more loving?
I have performed all over the country and got good response everywhere. We camp and perform at a place for a month or two depending on the demand. In cities like Patna, Varanasi etc. we have even stayed for 3 months. The attendance in the show is only impacted when we have a crucial cricket match or a curfew. Otherwise, the shows are always houseful and it depicts the love people have for our work.
8) Does government recognize magic as an industry? Do they support you in any way?
The government’s contribution has been negligible. The only support that we’ve got is in terms of waiving of Entertainment tax. That’s too is waived only in about 60% of the places where I perform.
9) There are several TV shows on Magic in America by magicians like Criss Angel, David Blaine which are hugely popular. Do you see becoming this much popular among Indian audience? What according to you could be done in India that would benefit the cause of Magic here?
We do conferences from time to time and recently we did one in Vrindavan, Mathura. Near about 650 magicians participated in this conference. Many of the magicians performed and we got to see some novel tricks. It had a special segment where all of us discussed the ways through which magic as an art could be popularized in India. The conference was very fruitful.