Mazma, the National Festival of Indian Street Magicians
December 2005
Magic Academy, India

Mazma dishes exotic essence of indigenous magic.

Traditional magic of India has been a subject of enduring enigma for magic fans all over the world. The pace of progress in the fields of science and technology has gifted a tint of modernity to our native magic too. If we go by the words of Wouter Bijdendijk, a member of Dutch Magic Union, 'foreigners still find a magic charm in the name India itself'. 27-year-old Wouter had been in Thiruvananthapuram to attend Mazma, the first national festival of street magicians conducted by Magic Academy on 10, 11 December, under the aegis of the Department of Culture, Government of Kerala. Needless to say that Mazma was a creation born in the inventive brain of India's own Houdini, Gopinath Muthukad.

Wouter, who even performed a unique Indian-styled levitation act in the city as a forerunner to impending festival, was just one in the consortium of foreign magicians, who were irresistibly beckoned by Mazma. Indian magic has an age-old history frilled by glittering feats including the Great Indian Rope Trick, Green Mango Trick, Indian Basket and the Cups and Balls contributed by the doyen of Kerala magic, Vazhakunnam Neelakantan Namboodiri.

"These items are evergreen in the hands of our street magicians. Indian street magicians are guardians to several unexplored and uncommon routines in magical art that have been passed on through vagrant generations", says Gopinath Muthukad. It was this observation that his Academy came forward resolutely to salvage the unsung heroes of the streets.

State of street magicians in India is highly deplorable. They live in slums and street sides deprived of all basic elements of dignity including shelter, food or education. In a face-to-face with the media, street magician from Kerala, Shamsudeen lamented that a full day show fetches him a meager amount of Rs.100 or 250 at the maximum. "Urban development has left us into a sheer state of insecurity. Authorities have totally neglected us who live out of magic shows. We are no more allowed to pull crowds at street sides" complained magician Ashiq Hussain from Shadipur of Delhi.

Mazma became a stage for these stars of the streets to unleash their inherent talent. There were competitions and the hefty prize money announced for the winners doubled their enthusiasm. Around 50 adept teams of street magicians from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujrat, Rajasthan and Delhi participated in the conclave. Out of them, 12 dexterous teams, lead by veterans displayed their dazzling skill with an aim of grabbing the top prizes. Consequently the people who came in scores and crowded around theses magicians were blessed to witness the rarest formations of Indian traditional magic. Slithering serpents to scorching fire were no deterrent for the skillful magicians.

Ashique Hussain of Delhi who performed Indian Basket with all its glory emerged 'Jadu Samrat' to grab a purse of Rs.25000. Hussain's show that was held just after the inaugural function had some nerve-racking sequences that was witnessed by a jostling crowd having on its front row, dignitaries including the Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Cultural Minister A.P. Anilkumar and the city Mayor C. Jayanbabu. A boy who was vanished inside the 'Indian Basket' was first reemerged as a slithering cobra but to get again reappeared in the formal state at the throw of a crystal ball. Then the toddler's neck was cut with a sharp knife but only to get him unharmed when the crowd heaved a sigh of relief.

Another Delhiite magician Farooq became runner up through his demonstration of Green Mango Trick wherein a mango seed that was buried in soil was turned into a big mango tree bearing green mangoes. The senior most contestant, an 85-year-old Samjunath Lalnath Vadi of Ahamedabad was bestowed with a special appreciation and a Consolation Cash Award. All the competitors were provided with certificates instituted by the Kerala Sangeeta Nataka Akademi.

If the inaugural function was rain-drenched, the closing ceremony was soaked in tears over flew from the eyes of Ashiq Hussain, who became emotional on hearing about his victory. The spoilsport of rain however couldn't douse the enthusiasm in the minds of performing street magicians and spectators. As Mazma marked an endearing end, Indian magic flag resplendent of its precious heritage, flew higher and higher.

Magic Academy India, December 2005