‘I had to redesign tricks for the virtual audience’: Nikhil Raj talks about magic during pandemic

Despite missing live shows, Nikhil sees an increasing demand for magic online

The Kissing Card is among the tricks Bengaluru magician Nikhil Raj has shared on his YouTube channel. In it, he asks a member of the audience to pick a card from a deck and sign it. Then, he folds the card and asks them to bite it. Next, he picks another card, signs and puts it into his mouth for about two seconds. He takes out his card and asks the participant to take theirs out. The latter is amazed upon unfolding both cards — for, somehow, the cards have swapped places… without a kiss, of course.

The magic performance’s felt experience enhances the pleasure the spectator derives despite getting tricked. It isn’t the same when one watches a video of a trick. Hence, it is difficult for a magician to recreate this experience when he/she is performing for a virtual audience. Yet, Nikhil says he has been doing just that since the pandemic began.

“All the corporate shows got cancelled in the first month [of the lockdown]. It was disappointing, of course. I had to redesign the tricks and performance to suit a virtual audience.”

“Performing online is completely different from performing on stage,” he explains, “For instance, on stage, I can call someone from the audience for a trick or an illusion. I can ask them to do many things. But it is difficult to make them do things over a video call.”

Nikhil’s magic ranges from seemingly simple card tricks to mentalism, which involves mind-reading. For the latter, he needs to carefully observe the participant’s expressions and body language, which, through video calls, is difficult. Yet his first online mentalism show, Reimagining Mental Limits, he says, had 1500-plus viewers via Zoom. “It is fascinating. There has been a lot of demand for mentalism since the lockdown started.”

Despite redesigning other kinds of magic for a virtual audience, illusions, he says, are tough to pull off online. “Illusions require a lot of props. So, to do it alone, in front of a webcam is not possible.”

Yet Nikhil promises a few fascinating tricks in his upcoming show, Mysticity. In one of the acts, he will be guessing the audience’s phone passwords.

Mysticity has been annually recurring for the last five years. “This year, I see a greater demand for the show. So, I am planning to have it every month online.”

He is also organising a two-day workshop in which he will teach children aged between six and 12 years magic tricks using everyday objects.

Mysticity will be live from 5 pm onwards on August 16. Click here to register.

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