Thursday, May 24, 2012

Here now, gone the next moment

A traditional item, ‘Cheppum Panthum’, which was performed in the durbars of kings, enabled Mayan Vaidar Sha to win the 'Close-Up' title in the Grand Indian festival of Magic in Bengaluru. He speaks about his career as a magician

By Shevlin Sebastian

Magician Mayan Vaidar Sha puts a mat on the floor and carefully puts four golden cups on it. Then he takes a small blue ball and places it under a cup. He places a wand over it and lifts another cup and takes the same blue ball out of it. He carries on doing this, taking out the ball from different cups. At one stage, the blue becomes an orange ball. Then astonishingly, it turns into a small sparrow. After another swish of the wand, the ball now becomes a tiny turtle.

The members of the Wednesday Club, which promotes communication and leadership skills, look on amazed. Mayan has still not finished. He puts a ball in his mouth and swallows it. At the climax, he produces a bunch of red seeds, from under the cup, seemingly out of nowhere.

This particular segment is called ‘Cheppum Panthum’. “It is ancient trick and used to be performed in the durbars of kings,” says Mayan. Very few people know how to do this item. In fact, it was prominent magician Prof. Vazhakkunnam Neelakandan Namboodiri who saved it from dying out. “I learnt it from Namboodiri's disciple Nanu Mash, but it took me four years,” he says. “This is all about conjuring.”

Mayan made some innovations. He added one more cup and came up with the idea of producing a turtle and red seeds. “In the original concept, the aim was to bring out red scarves,” he says.

Club member Nirmala Lilly is impressed. “Mayan's hand movements are so fast that we cannot see what he is actually doing,” she says. “The magic wand is a distraction for the audience. It seems like he is putting dust in the eyes and we cannot see anything.”

Undoubtedly, this item, ‘Cheppum Panthum’, is special. And when Mayan took part in the Great Indian Festival of Magic, conducted by the Magic Academy in Bengaluru, a few days ago, he secured the first prize in the Senior Close-Up competition. There were 17 magicians from all over India who took part. 

“The competition had some big names,” says Academy Founder-President K.S. Ramesh. One of the judges was Pilou, one of France 's well-known professionals and a world champion in magic. Says Ramesh: “The fact that Pilou chose Mayan means that he is very good. Mayan's forte is his traditional items.”

Mayan has been a magician for over 30 years and has performed all over Kerala. “My most popular item is mind-reading,” says Mayan. “I will call a member from the audience and ask him to think about something. And then I will tell him what he was thinking.” Mayan also does items on Aids awareness, the dangers of plastic consumption and industrial safety. “I convey all the messages through magic,” he says.

Mayan says that in most stage programmes, there are mechanical and conjuring styles. “For mechanical, you don't need much skill,” he says. “You open a box and there is nothing in it. Then you close and open it and there is something there.” In conjuring, you bring up something out of thin air. “You take a rope and make it look like you are cutting it up into two, three, or four pieces,” he says. “Then you join it up and make it a single rope. Later, you make it into a circle.”

Unfortunately, because of the lack of a magic culture in the state, Mayan is not a full-time professional. Instead, he works as an assistant engineer in the Cochin Shipyard. “I have to spend a lot of money on buying props, but thankfully, it is break-even for me,” he says. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi) 

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