Inside an Indian Magic Convention
Delegates at the Choomantar Magic Asia convention grab a selfie with magician Prabhu from Coimbatore, who does his act in a clown costume, before the start of the day’s activities. Images: Nishat Fatima.
Travel

Inside an Indian Magic Convention

The Great Indian Rope Trick is still hanging in there.
July 16, 2018, 9:40am

First off, there are the hats, many of them. Then, the suits, which deserve a second look. There’s a sense of camaraderie, people traveling in from around the country, everybody seems to know everybody, and there’s a lot of catching up. It’s Fashion Week basically, except that it’s mostly men.

The stage set up for magician Prabhu’s act at Choomantar Magic Asia 2018. Confetti from the previous act, where it emerged from handkerchiefs, scarves, and balloons litters the stage. Image: Nishat Fatima.

Choomantar Magic Asia 2018 took place on July 7-8 in Hyderabad. From 1986, it’s been organized by Samala Venu and takes place every two years. There are stage shows and lectures, demonstrations of the latest products, and stalls where you can buy them, all designed to upgrade magic skills.

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Magic store-owners from around the country offer set up stalls to showcase new goods for magic acts. At Zapata, this included the Miracle Rope that breaks into two and magically rejoins. Image: Nishat Fatima.

The thumb, with just enough room to hold a few items, forms an integral part of many routines, such as pulling money out of thin air. Image: Nishat Fatima.

It takes a little to get into it, but then wham! you’re inundated. There’s the passion of the magicians: A lawyer from Kerala giving up his practice for magic, an archery coach from Hyderabad who shoots arrows without a bow for his act, the teacher and seller from a small town near Gwalior who combs Korea, Japan, and the US for unique magic goods so Indian magicians can have different acts, even if its at his loss. There’s even a 10-year-old on his 15 th show.

Khalid from Chennai, watches his colleagues perform from the wings of the Hari Hara Kala Bhavan in Secunderabad. Image: Nishat Fatima.

There’s the history: That the Great Indian Rope Trick, the mango tree trick, and basket trick are still gold standards. The present: India manufactures a lot of the world’s magic goods. That some of most popular acts are still canes that turn into silk scarves and bouquets emerging from hats. And finally, colleges that now offer courses in magic. It’s not Harry Potter, but it’s just as interesting.

Santosh Adwani from near Gwalior demonstrates new acts to a delegate. Goods and tricks are fiercely guarded, nothing is for sale or to be shared unless you are recognised as a part of the convention. Image: Nishat Fatima.

Follow Nishat Fatima on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on VICE IN.