‘Dying’ art? Indian magicians raise alarm in asking for status, funding

December 28th, 2011 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General


Dying art? Indian magicians raise alarm in asking for status, funding

You know that debate that you see on magic forums, where someone writes, “Magic is art and magicians are all artists,” then a massive flame war starts? (The flames get bigger when flourishers get involved.) That’s an actual legal question before the Indian government. But asking the question brought up a bigger question about the status of magic, and whether it’s dying.

Vijay Raghuvir Bhopale, an Indian magician, has filed a petition in the Bombay High Court for the government to consider magic an art. According to a report in the Times of India, the petition asks the state government to elevate the status of magic to “art” and fund it the same way the government funds literary meets, drama and folk dance events.

Vijay is the son of the late magician Raghuvir Yadav. (Warning: site contains bad music, but no pause or stop buttons.) Vijay and his son, third generation magician Jitendra Raghuvir (pictured, with a portrait of Yadav at left), have performed in the U.S., Australia, Singapore and Thailand, and say they have received tremendous response from audiences. They are just looking for a little of the same respect in their native country. Said Jitendra:

“It is disappointing that the native country is showing an apathetic attitude towards magicians. If the government supports magicians, it will help remove superstition about this form of art among rural people.”

Interesting quote, there, about removing superstition. Jitendra was quoted at length in a report on ExpressIndia.com, and elaborated about why he and his father filed the petition. Three reasons:

~ By declaring magic as an art, magicians get a boost to revive the art.
~ It will spread awareness of the “science behind magic,” curbing superstitions.
~ Unless there are concentrated efforts to revive magic, the art will “become a thing of the past.”

Does that mean the debate of whether magic is an art will be settled by a high court in India? Unlikely. We’re not exactly bothered by the notion of magic’s legal status. What is curious to us is the magicians’ notion that magic is a dying art.

Keep in mind that the Raghuvirs are expressing an opinion from what they see in India. We have our opinions, of course, but we want to know what you think. What do you see around you, in your neck of the woods? Is magic dying? If so, what are you doing to keep it alive?

18 comments

  1. Very interesting read! Wish I had time to comment fully but for now I will say this…..Magic can and will never die….more to come when I have the time to put my thoughts into words. Like I said GREAT article and GREAT question.
    -Adam W

  2. Etude O’Neel-Judy on:

    Fascinating, this question seems complicated and I certainly think magic is an art and should be removed form the ‘games and jokes’ section of libraries. If you compare magic to the old days when vaudeville was at its hightt, I would say that yes…the art is dwindling, I think that then was the Golden Age of magic, but now stage performances on that scale are becoming rare. However Magic is still popular through the fame of Chris Angel and David Blaine, people are becoming smarter and so normal card tricks are beginning to not be enough. I think, that unless drastic changes are made to the way people look at magic, it will, one day, die. Or, another possibility, is that the changes one sees and the drop in stage performance regularity it not a sign of magic’s slow death but of its slow metamorphosis. Though I do still think that magic is shrinking from the public’s eye. When David Blaine and Chris Angel are no longer popular, if no new magician of equal caliber rises, we will see magic take a dive. Therefore I challenge everyone of you to be the best you can be, and keep the art alive. I want to see a great magician 10,000 years or so from now, performing the great vanishing planet or something!

  3. the difrencees are their is no govrnment award for magicians..their is no school of magic at all..and thr is no fesilities…but sum of th grt magicians we hav in INDIA. P.c sarkar. Gopinath muthukad who recently got merline award…and i think the art couldnt die. Its always their. What we need is just a showcase….and then the real magic wil flow. yesterday incident.. i went to a book fair. their was a magic shop. i went their and saw two decks of u.s cards. one is regular bicycle another is bee.i ask the shopkeepr about the price.. he just amezed and started to say r u going to buy those? i hav only two. no one buys those cards.r u a magician? he was so happy to talk with me,though i,m not a grt magician..because we do not hav much magicians.u could see a grt slight of hand expert is sitting on the footpath beside my old school selling some magic for 10 rs 20 rs.we need promotion and showcasing ane yes gov funding to those who are talented enough but couldnt afford it.

  4. look its all about quality .you caant ask anything without quality …………… people dont give a shit if dont have a quality .if you put this joker type dress ,this badass music no one will care about you and if people dont care about you why the hell will government take concern …………..so 1st of all you need to take people on your side thats what i am doing ,2nd improve yourself change with the time like other arts do and 3rd you will see a real magic will happen and you bloody dont need to beg someone for your right……………………

  5. I am 28 and sometimes do professional Card Magic in India. The society’s including my parent’s attitude towards the magician is overall pathetic. They are ashamed to tell any one about my unique art and always keep taunting about the same. But I have begin to see the change may be because I perform card tricks in more modern way and in proper dress code (suite, formal wear) instead of traditional loud Indian Magical Dress.
    The way you present yourselves is extremely important .
    Also I would like to mention about new startup, Archduke Playing Cards which I think is formed by young entrepreneurs in India. They provide finest playing cards in India and i have read reviews online which mention these cards to be far better than what USPC makes.
    I really wish Ellusionist should contact them and get cards printed from them. I have found their stock and finish to be superior than most of USPC cards.
    I am no way associated with this company , I am just proud to say about this effort of making spectacular cards which has been never done in my country before.
    Everyone complains about magic as dying art in India but nobody comes forward and does something to uplift the magicians or manufacture quality magic products considering the needs of magicians especially those who do card magic.
    Archduke Cards have taken a very important step in developing card magic in India and I am waiting to see what they are bringing in future. I hope that they grow, continue to make and improve the playing cards they make. Its our job to support them.
    For those who wish to contact them or thank them, there is email address mentioned on the box of their playing cards[archdukecards@gmail.com]
    Best,
    Cardsman, India

  6. I m a indian too and i think magic should be considered art becausewhere ever i go and tell them i m interested in magic theyc me with strange eyes and tell that it should be banned they are all scam and con artists who take innocent people’s money by fooling them i didn’t like it all but i respect my elders…

  7. I find this article and Saral’s comment in particular very interesting. Here in the West I believe we perceive magic as a form of entertainment and I personally see it a s a form of performance art that takes knowledge, skill and practice to master. It takes a creative brain to come up with a new effect, be it a card trick, an illusion or a new gimmick and there are so many different and creative ways that magic can be presented.
    People that scam innocent victims out of their money are con artists, not magicians and people who lose their money betting on the outcome of a game (even if it’s fixed), are gamnblers, not innocent victims. Judging by the amount of time and money people like me invest into their magic (for me it’s just a fun hobby, I can only conclude that in this part of the world at least, magic is thriving and yes, it’s a form of art!

  8. Art has something to say, that’s the essence of art, or at least what is taught as ‘art’ in Universities. How many magicians do you see that actually have something to say other than ‘look at this’.

    The catch is this for me, if magic is an art, what then, is not an art! Creating something beautiful could be artistic – a chief for example could create a masterpiece of a cake, yet this is not an ‘art’ in the sense that painting or theater is.

    I have spent many years contemplating these questions, and discussing them with individuals in the world of high arts (Theater, painting, music.) No one likes to hear this, but as it stands – this is not an art form in the true sense boys and girls, regardless of what we say.

    Speak to people who paint for a hobby, what they are trying to convey is more than – that’s nice, and until we start doing the same as a whole, well, calling ourselves ‘artist’ will just be an inflation of our already larger than realistic ego’s.

  9. magic as entertainment is cyclical. t.v. helps and hurts anyone care about criss angel or david blaine anymore? anyone criticizing a magician’s costume should reconsider their opinion. one of the reasons for the resurgence in interest in the art was doug henning. a very serious magician and he looked like a damned hippie. magic as a state recognized art would be great, anywhere. it is however, like anything else. some practioners are artists and some are hacks, some are performers and some raise it to an artform, even when doing other peoples illusions. the question is what is the art of magic? the illusion or the illusionist? so, to sum up: costumes are fine, magic is art and magic will never be gone forever.

  10. oh, one last henning remark. he did get a degree in magic, either a b.a.(bachelor of arts), or a m.f.a.(masters of fine arts). so, yes it is a “legit” artform. and since when does academia have final word on what is or isn’t art? if it isn’t an art, then neither is carpentry or archetecture. or for that matter, acting.

  11. Rohan Jayasekera on:

    Hi!The Sri Lanka Magic Circle was successful in convincing the government to accept Magic as a fine art and even got a block of land to put up our own club house under the guidance of our current Magic circle President. One main point we put forward was, if cricket, not being a native sport, can be given such recognition, why not for magic?
    Wish Vijay can bring out the magic to win this case.

  12. Is magic dying?

    Please give me a break.I have been a full time professional magician for 22 years now and didn’t use magic throughout some fancy university and at the end ended up doing something completely different like so many bloody semi professionals out there.

    Magic was ,magic is and will always be a profession if the performer expects to make a living out of it.That’s what I did – and still doing-and will always do and my financial situation is very good thank you very much.

    Come on boys if you say you love magic PROVE it -to yourselves-to the world.

    Frank Agius.

    Email:magicalfrank@hotmail.com

  13. okay, I am obsessive, go to Biography website, look up doug henning. according to them, henning got a grant from the canadian government to study magic, after convincing them that…cue drumroll, magic is an artform. I will allow for the word “performance” to precede art in discussing magic. but really, it isn’t an artform, then neither is any theatrical anything, play, dance or ballet or anything else. there i have had my rant.

  14. i feel that magic is like life and death, it dies with the last generation and is reborn with the next, so magic will truly never die, it will just keep being reborn.

  15. Rohan Jayasekera on:

    This age old question has dragged on through generations.By the way is Magic an Art or a CRAFT ?
    This comment came from my friend RM from USA.

  16. Hi All,

    I believe magic is a performing art. I personally am not a magician at all and do not know even a bit about doing it. However, as a kid I was fascinated towards it and wanted to learn it for fun even during my graduation. I tried to find a place to learn on internet but to no vail. i lost interest, today after reading this article, I again tried to find a place that teaches some good magic, impressive enough to convince individuals to consider it artistic and creative. However, still I find nothing on internet. Tricks on various websites are often so low you loose hope and are forced to believe art of magic is almost dead.
    I believe to save this art first step should be make it easily available on internet and then help kids learn it.

    Just my thoughts and I maybe mistaken but feel free to correct me if you think so.

  17. PTSu…

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