Thursday, August 14, 2003

The Hindu: He calls it Dramagic

Wednesday, Aug 13, 2003
Metro Plus Chennai

For Prahlad Acharya, magic has a purpose that goes beyond entertainment. The magician is performing at Vani Mahal till August 30.

CONJURER PRAHLAD Acharya practises an art that splices drama with magic. He calls it "dramagic". It is an artistic genre in which realistic narrative, achieved through dance and music, is married to surreal elements of fantasy. "I draw from tradition for theme and setting," says Prahlad, after a performance at Vani Mahal on G.N. Chetty Road. Examples are Kadinalli Jatre, which dwells on a tribal subject, Punarjanma (life after death), Agni (a Vedic trick), Nada Habba (once upon a time) and the Indian Basket Trick. Incidentally, the last trick won Prahlad an international award.

Dance is integral to Prahlad's "dramagic". Even when the artistes are not dancing, they move gracefully and rhythmically to music. "We brush up on our dance movements when we are not performing, under the guidance of professional instructors," says Prahlad.

Another feature of Prahlad's shows is the speed with which one trick follows another. The settings and costumes are changed in the twinkling of an eye.

The shows are interspersed with comic interludes, with twinkle-toed clowns attired in multi-coloured raiment taking centrestage. Shadow play and ventriloquism are also added for good measure.

Thirty-three-year-old Prahlad has a number of Houdini-like "escapes" to his credit. In 1993, he performed an underwater escape at Madhwa Sarovar in Udipi. On May 20, 2000, he performed an escape act at the Jog Falls. On October 2, 1999, he vanished into thin air, "breaking" prison bars at the Bellary jail. On December 10, 2001, he repeated the feat, this time at the Bangalore Central Jail. Each of the "jail breaks" was pulled off in eight seconds.

Another well-known Prahlad escape is Agnivyooha Chhedana (escape from the castle of fire), which he performed at Udipi in September, 1994. "Following this, many magicians attempted similar escape acts and in the process sustained burn injuries," says Prahlad. On September 1, 2001, he did "a vanishing act" on the Golden Chariot at the Udipi Sri Krishna Temple.

Prahlad believes magic can be a potent vehicle for social reform. He and his 20-member troupe, Yakshaloka Magical Entertainers, have been carrying out campaigns to spread awareness about AIDS (in May, 1995, Prahlad undertook a "Jagruti Rally", a blind-fold drive from Mangalore to Panjim, for AIDS awareness), election ethics and the pulse polio programme. They also launched a national integration drive called Vande Mataram.

When an earthquake reduced Gujarat to rubbles in 2001, Yakshaloka pitched in. Proceeds of several shows conducted around Karnataka, Prahlad's home State, went to the Gujarat Earthquake Relief Fund.

Prahlad believes that magic as an art needs to be given a boost. "There are not many professional magic troupes in the country. The situation has to be remedied."

By way of holding his end up, Prahlad has set up MAADRI (Magic and Allied Arts Development and Research Institute), which is a manifestation of his belief that magic has a purpose that goes beyond entertainment. "It has immense potential as a medium for grassroot communication."

Prahlad Acharya will be giving performances at the Vani Mahal till August 30.



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