I feel magic has a huge potential audience: Vivek Desai
22-year-old self-taught magician, illusionist and mentalist Vivek Desai, talks about how he manages to woo Jacqueline Fernandez, Radhika Apte, Sunny Leone, Alan Walker and many more about his journey
Vivek Desai remembers seeing one of David Blaine’s TV specials as a child, when he lived in USA. He had also seen the video where David Copperfield allegedly made the Statue of Liberty in New York disappear. These are some of the most vivid memories he has from his younger days. Today, the 22-year-old magician, illusionist and mentalist has videos online, where he has managed to trick the likes of Jacqueline Fernandez, Radhika Apte, Sunny Leone, Alan Walker and many more. In a candid chat, he speaks to us about his work, influence and more. Excerpts:
How did the city of Pune influence your magical journey?
Before I moved to India, I used to perform only in front of people I knew. But I credit this city and the people in Pune for making it easier for me to perform in front of strangers. It was a lot less nerve wracking to approach random people here in the city than it was back in America. Now, my entire practice routine involves approaching strangers and performing for them, just so I can get some honest feedback regarding the effect of the performance. Depending on the reactions I get, I then decide whether it goes in my main routine or not.
Tell us about your education in illusions and the art of mentalist? When did you decide to take it up professionally?
There isn’t really any formal course or degree that will teach you the stuff I do. I’m primarily self-taught, I started learning through books and other resources when I was around 10-years-old. By the time I was 16, I got pretty good at it and I also became really comfortable performing in public as well. Eventually, I started getting requests to do paid shows at private parties and corporate functions and that is when, I began considering taking this up as a full time profession.
People tend to have a preconceived notion about magic and illusions. How would you decode the same?
The major obstacle that illusionists and mentalists face today, especially in a country like India, is educating the public about the differences between what I do (Modern street magic and mentalism, similar to what you would see David Blaine or Dynamo doing), and what traditional magicians in India have been doing for years (wearing costumes and producing pigeons). Both have their place, but many people are put off when they hear the word ‘magician’ because they associate it with the costume performances from the past. Recently, however, I’ve seen a substantial increase in demand for mentalists and illusionists in the country as well, which without any doubt, is due to the rising popularity of a lot of international magicians.
What are the pros and cons for your profession?
There are several advantages that performing magic has given me. One of the biggest is the fact that I haven’t paid a traffic fine in 10 years. Anytime I get stopped, I just perform a few card tricks and they let me off without a fine. Also, I feel magic has a huge potential audience because unlike comedy and music, it need not be topical and you generally don’t need any outside context to appreciate it. At the same time, that’s also a con because unlike Indian musicians and comedians, magicians don’t have the advantage of creating content targeted towards a specific national demographic. And as a result, we’re essentially competing with international magicians as well.
As stated above, there’s also a stigma of magic in India being associated with those loud costumes of traditional Indian magicians, which results in a lack of interest from certain potential clients. This can only be remedied by explaining that our style of performance is much closer to what you would see from magicians and mentalists in Las Vegas and other cities abroad.
I’m hoping to tour the country with a ticketed stage show by the year end, and I’ve already planned a few ticketed trial shows in the coming few months. There are also a few celebrity magic videos which I’m planning to shoot and release by the year end as well. So, this year is shaping up to be a busy one for me