Maneka Sorcar, the first woman magician in the country, carries the heavy burden of her family’s legacy on her shoulders. Her grandfather P C Sorcar Sr and father P C Sorcar Jr are considered pioneers who took Indian magic or “Indrajaal” out into the world as an art form. While she manages this enormous responsibility on the stage, behind the scenes her work requires the relentless pursuit of an art that comes only through commitment and dedication.
“Magic is a unique combination of art and science that plays with the human psyche,” she says. “The science lies at the foundation of the tricks, and art is the key to presenting the performance in a manner which creates an illusion in the minds of the audience.”
With 250-300 shows all over the world every year, Maneka Sorcar says it’s not easy to perform in front of a live audience.”One needs expertise to perform the art of illusion,” she says. “Every show is a test for a magician. One cannot afford to make excuses to the audience, as the audience can be very critical.”
Having assisted her father P C Sorcar Jr in several of his shows, was it a natural progression for her to take the mantle? “Certainly not,” she says. “Even if you are born in a family of magicians, you still have to prove yourself worthy of being a magician.” The doting father at home turns into a rival on stage. “We compete with each other on stage to steal the limelight,” she says coyly.
Notably, in 2006, Maneka performed “The bicycle act on the Ganges” in Kolkata, which created a stir and earned her the respect as a performer in her own right.
Protul Chandra Sorcar, popularly known as P C Sorcar Sr, was the original pioneer. From the conventional three-piece suit, Sorcar Sr gave a new dimension to Indian magic by putting on regal attire — a sherwani and feathered turban. He died of a heart attack while on stage in Japan. His son Prodip Chandra Sorcar, or P C Sorcar Jr has spearheaded the art with his flagship magic acts of “Vanishing the Taj Mahal” and “Vanishing the Amritsar Express”.
Sorcar Jr is the highest foreign exchange earner in the country in live entertainment and his shows draw packed houses in India and abroad. “The audience base has been increasing despite the growth of other forms of entertainment,” says Maneka. “The credibility factor and awe-inspiring experience of a live magic show is a lot more convincing to the audience,” she says.
Maneka’s cousin Pouroosh Sorcar also practices magic. “Indrajaal vidya is like a gharana,” she says, “where one has to prove one’s worth and can’t claim it on the basis of birth. My brother has shown interest; however, his modus operandi is different from mine. If he dedicates himself to the enrichment of the art form, then my wishes are with him.”
P C Sorcar Jr has proposed to set up a “ghost restaurant” where ghosts and goblins will serve and entertain guests. “Once the venue for the project is finalised, we can guarantee a spine-chilling experience for our guests,” says Maneka. She says, carefully, that the family will implement this concept with the utmost care, because its sole aim is entertainment, not sending out any message of evil.
The Sorcars plan to turn Indrajaal Bhavan, P C Sorcar Sr’s residence, into a museum where the master magician’s props from his various hit acts will be displayed. A portion of the house has been turned into an office. “This year marks the birth centenary celebrations of my grandfather,” says Maneka, “and we have requested the Kolkata Municipal Corporation to confer Indrajaal Bhavan with heritage status,” says Maneka. The Government of India has brought out a postage stamp to mark the centenary.
Just like her predecessors, Maneka intends to upgrade her tricks. She shares with Business Standard that her net trick will soon be even more breathtaking. “I am working on an anti-gravitation illusion and shall have my first curtain raiser in the next sixth months.”