Magic to your eyes
PC Sorcar Junior is no less a magician than his father. He talks to SANGEETA YADAV about his journey under his legendary father’s wings and then as an adult magician himself
When we hear of the legendary magician PC Sorcar, it reminds us of an incident when in 1956, he was invited to perform in the BBC TV programme Paranoma. He was given the last slot of 15 minutes and he chose to perform the sawing of a woman in half.
“He took his time doing the act and sharp at 6 pm, the programme was about to end. The lady had been sawed in half and joint together. PC Sorcar was calling out to her and she was still dead. Because the clock stuck 6, they cut to the news. Immediately, the BBC telephone lines were jammed. Everyone in England wanted to know what happened to the girl. BBC is known to be punctual but they had not fathomed such a huge situation arising out of cutting the programme before it ended. All the reporters came running to the office to find out what had happened. The next day, the newspapers’ screamed headlines like The girl is alive. She was always alive but my father deliberately didn’t bring her back to life so that he could make headlines in England,” recalls PC Sorcar Junior who has recently launched a biography on his father titled PC Sorcar: The Maharaja of Magic published by Niyogi Books.
His awe-inspiring magic tricks left many mesmerised and he was often questioned about how he did it. One such trick was cutting off the tongue.
“One of his unique and most popular tricks was cutting the tongue which he learnt from madaris. When he performed on the stage across the world, it was so realistic that even the doctors came on the stage to check out. Some people used to faint thinking it was something supernatural,” Sorcar Junior, recipient of the Merlin Award for Magic and a doctorate in psychology, tells you.
Taking the legacy forward, Junior says: “We have been weaving magic for generations. My father was the seventh generation and now my daughter Maneka is taking it forward. My father looked at magic in a different way and did an in-depth study of the craft. My great grandfather and others were not serious practising magicians. They practised magic but didn't have the confidence to present that magic well in public. The society did not accept magic as an art form. It was often confused with religion, superstition and other things. In the wrong hands, it would bring chaos.
“My father made people understand that magic was not tantra mantra or hocus pocus. He had to literally walk on fire to do that. He revived magic and brought it at par with other art forms. This transition defined a new era in the history of magic. My father was basically a scientist, an artist and an entertainer with strong determination to show India in flying colours,” Junior says.
It was during a performance in Japan that this great magician passed away due to a heart attack. “When he suffered a heart attack in Japan in 1971, I was in the Kolkata. I rushed to Japan, saw his body and broke down. I was told that his last words were 'The show must go on’. I touched his feet and promised him that it, indeed, would. I removed his sherwani and turban and wore it. The turban was still wet with his perspiration. I asked people to take his body back to India and I performed on stage as PC Sorcar Junior. Even after 47 years, the show goes on. My father is not dead. He is alive in me,” Junior says. Sorcar Senior lived with the regret that though he travelled across the country with his show Indrajal, he never got a chance to perform in Pakistan where he was born.
Back in India, people thought that his death was a part of some trick and he would soon appear and say, ‘I am alive’. “There were people who queued up at our home. They thought that my father had done a disappearing act and would come back. And all this is a part of some grand plan. But that didn’t happen. I took over the shows and finally, the public accepted the fact that my father was no more,” Junior recalls.
PC Sorcar considered Junior to be his legacy who would take the magic forward. “The funny thing my father always used to say was: ‘I was his best magic’,” Junior says who is himself no less.
He too became popular for making the Taj Mahal, Victoria Memorial and train full of passengers disappear. His X-ray eyes trick, where he can see things blindfolded, is a rage. Ask how he manages to make things vanish, he says with a chuckle: “Why should I tell you?”
His daughter Monica has been brought up on magic fables down the generations. “My father thought that he had two fathers — one was baba at home, a very strict father not to his liking. And then there was the magician, ever smiling, happy and spreading magic all over the world. PC Sorcar was a different man at home and never brought his magic to the doorstep. As a child, my father often told his friends that baba and the magician were two different people and they would ask him in jest: ‘How many fathers do you have?’ He would come to my grandmother crying and she would tell him that both were the same person. But he couldn’t believe her. Although he hated his father as a child, as a young man, he loved him and learned magic from him. To create a fairytale figure like PC Sorcar, you have to have a very strong-willed person like baba. He was larger than life. I am the ninth generation, and yet when I perform on stage I find the essence of PC Sorcar in me and a constant comparison.”
Though the definition of magic has changed over the years, Junior tells you that it is purely a combination of science, art and psychology done only for entertainment. “The word indrajal means influencing the indriyaan (senses) for entertainment. I call this entertainment of tomorrow for the intelligent, not for the superstitious. Magic is done not to fool people but to create a fairytale atmosphere on stage,” he explains, adding that if magic means pulling a rabbit out of a hat and two balls appearing instead of one, it is no longer interesting.
He also tells you that there was a time when people considered magic as black magic. “Why not call it blue, grey or white magic? When somebody calls it black magic, it irritates me. Magic is magic. It doesn’t have any colour. The word was coined in the West who wanted to show our country is a bad light. There is no such thing as black magic. When the West took slaves from Africa, they called Voodoo black magic because it was the magic that the Blacks performed. Every trick has a scientific explanation. If it is science, it can’t be black magic,” Junior says.
When asked what is that one trick which he has not been able to do, Sorcar says: “So far, I’ve not become able to make the bad politicians disappear scientifically (laughs).”
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