Simon Baker in the TV show The Mentalist wows the viewers with his cold reading and hypnosis to track down real criminals. Does this mean that there is science behind mind reading? SHALINI SAKSENA chats up self-styled mystifier and supernatural entertainer LIOR SUCHARD to tell you more
Could you give the notepad, he asks, and tells you to think of a number. You think, here comes the trick. In the meantime, he scribbles something on the paper. He then asks you to share the number you had thought of. Lo and behold! It is the number on that paper. What is new here?
After all, we all saw Patrick Jane, (Simon Baker) in The Mentalist using his special but fraudulent powers to solve crime. He studied the body language of the person to find out the true killer among suspects. Is there a science that allows a person to read minds and body language to predict things that common people can’t pick up? Or it is just a fantastic trick by a magician to wow his audience?
Lior Suchard, renowned Israeli mentalist, mystifier and a supernatural entertainer, tells you that what he does is more than parlour tricks.
What exactly is a mentalist and how what he does different from a magician? Suchard mixes visual magic, mind reading, body language and keen sense of observation to influence people. Mentalists usually don’t mix normal magic tricks for the amazing feats they do to keep their audience captivated. A mentalist will always dissociate himself from theatrical tricks that a magician performs on stage — like the Water of Ganga — the famous trick of PC Sircar Senior. From a small cauldron, at the beginning of the show, he would pour water into a basin. All through his performance, he would pour water from that cauldron, till the end of the show. The water never ran out!
The 39-year-old is in India after a long gap and there is a reason. “It has been a few years. There was a time when I used to visit often. Then I stopped. This visit comes after a long wait. To begin with, I used to come here often, do tours — visit 20 cities. After doing many shows, I collaborated with Ace Production and created a big show. But then I went away on a break. I am back now. I was supposed to come earlier, but was busy with other performance the world over but I had a window of time for this trip and created three shows — one in Delhi and two in Mumbai. Everything this time is new — the acts and crazy interactive sessions. We also wanted to combine this show which would benefit children as well. We are helping Create Foundation, I will interact with children and have a fun-filled interactive session,” says Suchard who was in the Capital and staying at the Ambassador, IHCL, SeleQtions. He tells you that there is no such thing as a normal mind reader.
He decided to stay away from India as he wanted the market to miss him and also to keep his imitators at bay. Back then, when he used to visit and perform across cities, many started copying him and calling themselves mentalists, performing across India. What they were doing, Suchard says, was copying his acts. But he takes it in his stride and as a compliment. “If someone is copying you, it means what you are doing is good,” he says.
“I opened the floodgates. I was always a mind-reading master mentalist. A mentalist is not a magician, I don’t do card tricks, I don’t levitate people, I don’t do bowling tricks. I work on the mind. I know how people think. I use underground psychology influencing hypnotics, body language reading, non-verbal communication, extra-sensory perception, strong memory and mathematical skills to read the mind. I combine all these skills with my love for the stage and share an experience with audience participation,” Suchard says. He goes on to prove he is good at what he does.
Pointing to a person, he asks how well one knows him. He asks him to write a name on a strip of paper and destroy it. “To get rid of the evidence,” he explains. He looks at the person for a few seconds and begins. “When I look at the body language, the name that was written is that of a woman. It was a name that came immediately to you. The name you have written is uncommon. I am not sure. It has three-four alphabets, like a nickname but in this case, it is her given name. It is not accurate science; sometimes I make mistakes. But right now, the name that comes up is Mini,” he tells you, leaving a trail of amazement. For Suchard, it is simple. He just observed the person and used his skills to arrive at the name.
“What I do is not a trick. What people think is real or not real, it is all part of the show. For me, the most important thing is for people to be happy, enjoy and have an amazing experience. It is not about believing or not believing. people are welcome to be sceptical; they can have fun with the show. If people believe, that’s good. Albert Einstein said: ‘There are two ways to live life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle’. If you are choosing that nothing is a miracle, you are many doors. I don’t try to talk about power, it is about ability. I tell people in my show that everyone has the ability to do amazing things. One just has to believe in himself,” Suchard explains.
Almost all mentalists say that they are not magicians and what they do is a different art form altogether. A mentalist on the other hand has a great knowledge about psychology of human nature and understand how people think. Instead of sawing women in half or making wild animals appear from big boxes, a mentalist tries to enter the most sacred and closely guarded place — our mind. Because of this, the audience experiences incredible things like bending of the spoon, like guessing the correct number that he wrote on the paper, like coming up with the correct answer every time the dice is rolled — all this and much more even when he is not looking at the person. One can say that it is crazy thought manipulations.
Magicians, on the other hand, don’t hide the fact that that they are doing is a trick in a manner that entertains. The audience too understands that what he is witnessing is an illusion and what he is actually seeing can’t really be done. A perfect example is the sawing of the woman into two and putting her back again. We all know that the magician really didn’t cut her into two. But this doesn’t mean that they don’t mix a bit of trick with mind games thrown in for a good measure. Some of us have watched the TV shows of people like David Blaine, an American illusionist, endurance artist and extreme performer, who perform mind-blowing mind-reading stunts that leaves the audience in awe.
A special mention for The Amazing Kreskin — an American mentalist who became popular on TV in the 1970s. The story goes that Kreskin would ask someone from the audience hide the payment he was to receive from the show. If he couldn’t find it by the end of his performance, he would not get paid! Such was his talent.
One is told that while there are many great magicians, there are very few – only a handful of people who are true mentalists. “If one had to think of a name, it will be difficult for people to come up with the name on the spot. Our world is very small. We are just a handful of people who are true mentalists.
His own journey began when he was very young. He tells you that there is no school that teaches mind reading – the high academics of mind reading. He is self-taught and tells you on a lark that maybe he should open a school that teaches what he does.
“It was a combination of things that he developed and learnt when he was young. He read a lot of books, travelled the world, he invented things and ideas, met people from radical Math calculations to spirituality. What I do moves from accuracy, to Math to precisement to spirituality, meditation and Zen. It takes skills that I have into account and combines that with a lot of fun, humour and craziness that I love. I studied all this and mastered what I do today.
The mentalist has a cup of activities waiting for him once his India tour ends.
As of now, he has two TV series in the US with celebs. He is also in the process of developing a new show and going to part of a big talk show. For this he has to be on top of the game; he practices, constantly thinking of new ideas and inventing all the time.
Interestingly, what he does can be taught and learnt. “It is similar to playing the piano. If I learnt the art from a tutor for 10 years, I would know how to and be pretty good with practice. But it doesn’t mean one will become Mozart. One can me taught. I have written a book — Mind Reader: Unlocking the Power of Your Mind to Get What You Want. It has been translated into eight languages. The book teaches a little about how one can influence others, to read people and mind techniques. I wrote it with the belief that people can be taught to do it. But there is a point up to which one can teach. Something has to come from within just like any other art form say like a sport. One can learn to play cricket but not everyone will be a Sachin Tendulkar. I take his name since he is a good friend of mine. You need to have that little extra to be right at the top,” Suchard tells you.
Self-belief and hard work are important pillars for a mentalist. “Take risks is another aspect. All these ties together to be a professional and be very good at what one does. Taking risks doesn’t mean putting oneself or others in danger but it means to do things that out of the extraordinary and think out-of-the-box. There a phrase – the difference between try and triumph is the little bit of ‘umph’. One needs to really hard work to even put out the simplest of acts,” he tells you.
He draws inspiration from travelling, meeting people and getting into a store. He tells you that the show that he is preparing for to be aired in the US, the act that it has were thought of three years back. I drew the ideas and then thought of combining it with a few things. Some of the acts that I showcase that takes years in process. For this tour, I have totally new ideas. The good part about this collaboration is that the production house and I have a good match, I am a high-end performer and I want everything to be perfect — from lighting to sound to stage. I prepared new acts that is going to blow the minds of the audience. Some of the acts are so big that it will involve the entire audience. In this instead of one person coming on the stage while the others watched, if the audience has thousand people, each will experience it and be part of the show. This is a rarity. It is tough to do as well. When one wants to be good at something — have showmanship, charisma, performance and the acts – if one has greats ideas but doesn’t know how to deliver it or if one is good but doesn’t know how to put out the idea, in both circumstances, it is not good. One needs to have ideas and know how to deliver it. For this tour, I am going to dazzle, confuse and make those present happy at the same time,” he says.
Dazzle he did. The act that involved the entire audience showed how optimism and the metaphor of finding love, everyone found it withing themselves through a crazy interactive experiment. There was mind-reading, mind influencing and predictions. Things moved with super high-end camera crew, lights, screens and sounds.
He tells you that what he does is 90 per cent real and 10 per cent trick. “I do tricks just to have fun with the audience. The 90 per cent is based on psychology and how the mind works. The human mind is the same. I don’t know what one is thinking, I know how one is thinking. I can take advantage of it and influence the person. That is how I could predict the number and gave that name,” Suchard says.
Even though he can predict what the other person is thinking, it doesn’t bother him since what he does is used for the positive purpose.
“I never think of negativity. Like when I came up with the name, the person is going to call her and tell her what happened and the other person would be just as amazed. I am a perfectionist. I am constantly improvising. Sometimes, I look at the place and change my acts. Sometimes, I improvise on the spot. This means that I change my acts depending on the people gathered. I love to invent new acts,” Suchard tells you. He is the best in his profession, he insists.
One can’t call oneself mentalist on a whim. One has to be a purist. Mentalist is a sacred art. There are many magicians making millions of dollars from their art. But many call themselves a mentalist because it is more prestigious. Being mentalist is tough. Some people think that being in the presence of a mentalist is scary. Charlie Chaplin said: A day without laughter, is a waste day. I laugh everyday and do the same for others,” Suchard says.
He tells you that people are scared because they think he can read their mind. “I am very sensitive to people. It is hard for a person to lie to me. I am not hearing thoughts of people and that could be why they are wary, what I do is a process that I have perfected over the years.
To end on a positive note: Always have happy thoughts; one never knows who might read them,” Suchard says.