It may all seem an illusion, performing magic. Regardless, making that illusion so real, that you actually believe it, is one of many things that the talented Neel Madhav, has in store for his audience. Everyone wants to believe in magic, they want to see it happen for real, and Neel tries to bring it [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

It’s a kind of magic

Young Indian illusionist and mentalist Neel Madhav shares with the Mirror Magazine his love of magic and its unique spell that captured his imagination

Pix by M.D. Nissanka

It may all seem an illusion, performing magic. Regardless, making that illusion so real, that you actually believe it, is one of many things that the talented Neel Madhav, has in store for his audience.

Everyone wants to believe in magic, they want to see it happen for real, and Neel tries to bring it as close to reality as possible.  “I want to make you believe in something more than, just what can be felt, seen or anything that can be sensed by your senses,” he tells me.

The 23-year old illusionist from India was here to perform at the Galle Literary festival, children’s programme. We found him seated amidst a group of children, teaching them how to do a simple pen trick.  This was his second day at the Thomas Gall School, which was all part of the festival programme.

He conducted a show and several workshops for the kids between the ages of five, seven and eleven. “You can’t teach them everything in one hour, but you can just show them a few things. They are pretty bright and learnt it faster than I did,” he tells me.

His interest on the subject was sparked by a magician in Boston. An illusionist was conducting a presentation on how business needs innovation and how you can apply the techniques of magic into business. “Everyone at the time was like ‘oh I’m going to do this,’ because everyone likes to perform magic at that age. Butluckily for me it kind of stuck on,” he recalls.

That same magician had a one on one session with Neel, later on, and by the end of it, he was blown away. “I couldn’t figure what was real and what was not and that made me look at things in a different way,” he explains. It gave him a new perspective on things, which he liked. “I thought that it was a very interesting way to live life. So that’s probably why I ended up choosing magic that’s how magic came into my life,” he adds.

It wasn’t always easy being a magician, and it certainly wasn’t any simpler for a 20 year old starting off in the field. Despite this, three years down the line, Neel has his own television show in India – “You got magic with Neel” and aside from this he performs at shows and cooperate events all over the world.

“In order for me to become a magician, I had to become a producer first,” Neel explains. This was simply because magic in India was not popular and he had to figure out how to boost its image. He met with a lot of producers, all of whom said it was good idea but didn’t want to invest in it. “I had to produce it all by myself and my dad helped me out,” he explains. Getting to know how a movie production is done, the do’s and dont’s behind the camera and how to shoot a film in the correct way, was all part and parcel of his job.

Neel uses a combination of Criminal psychology and Neuro linguistic programming, in his performances. He explains that criminal psychology is the art of reading people. Through it, you can figure out if a person is telling the truth or if they are lying. “We have micro expressions on our faces which, no matter how much you try not to – will appear. But they last only for like a micro second, so unless you don’t know what to catch, you would miss it.” Neuro linguistic programming is basically programming your neurons, which is your brain, through linguistic patterns. So just by talking to someone in a particular way, you can influence them into doing things in a certain way. “It’s basically like talking to your subconscious,” he says. The reason he uses these technique, is because over the years, the image of magic in India had deteriorated.“So I’ve kind of contemporised the art form, still keeping the traditional thing in mind, but giving it that real touch.”

“I remember the first time I messed up on stage,” he relates. It was at a little function, in a rural town about 300 kilometres off Jaipur. “It was like an ‘oh, I have no way out of this kind of moment,” he recalls.

Being into metalism, mind reading and influencing people are all based around linguistics, he relates. So if someone doesn’t understand you fluently it is very difficult to influence them and “I haven’t figured out the correct way of doing English and Hindi together, so I perform mostly in English. English wasn’t everyone’s first language, at the event, so I had to kind of change it up.”

The alternative was more ‘sleight of hand’ tricks.  Performing it for the first time, he kept practising, trying to get it right in his head. “So I call this one guy up on stage, for this one particular trick which required the use of a flap,” he explains. For some reason however, the flap got stuck. “I kept trying but it wasn’t coming out. Next I tried to do it like I wasn’t trying to pull it but it still didn’t come out. This was when the guy was like ‘dude I can see you trying to pull it from the bottom.” Neel kept his cool and replied in the affirmative admitting his failed attempt.

“He said, so basically you messed up, and I replied, yeah, go sit back down.”

The key in such moments is to admit your mistakes and because of that, the audience will still be with you. And if you do get the next trick right, the credibility increases, he tells me.

Part of Neel’s show revolves on him going across India looking for magical stories. He gets the opportunity to look for magical people and try out different cuisines. “I admire the Sri Lankan architecture and feel that it’s magical in its own sense,” he says adding that he’s excited to tour the country in the next few days.

“Oh my I’ve been speaking for the last 20 minutes,” he pipes in. Our chat must come to a close as Neel goes back to the kids, who await him with much anticipation.

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