The second Aurora Night of Quark’19 witnessed a magic act by the psychological illusionist, Karan Singh Magic, who captured his audience, not just with the ingenuity of his tricks but also with a splendor of a performance that kept his audience on the edge of their seat. We, at DoJMA, caught up with him a few hours before his performance to talk about his favourite celebrity audience, his long lost stage fright, and his love for the silliness of magic amongst other things. Read onto find out more about his journey…
DoJMA: Sir, you have performed for a lot of big names like Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Bhuvan Bam, etc. What was your favourite experience performing for somebody?
Karan: It’s sort of different every-time I perform but there are a few people who I have really liked performing for, and one of them is Shah Rukh (Khan) whom I have admired ever since I was a kid. Whenever I get a chance to meet him and perform for him it’s like living a childhood dream. Aamir is someone who gives the best reactions and so he makes for a great audience for magic and mind reading.
DoJMA: In a previous interview you mentioned that you took inspiration from one of Amir’s act. Can you tell us more about that?
Karan: Not one of his acts actually, I performed for the success party of Dangal and I was doing a thing there with a Rubik’s cube. Not many people know that Aamir can solve a Rubik’s cube in about forty seconds. So, as only I knew that he could do it, what we did was that we got Amir on the stage giving the illusion that Amir was solving the cube and that anyone who doesn’t know how to solve cube could do it if I were to hypnotize him. Later we told them that Aamir already knew how to solve the cube, but then I took inspiration from this idea and I came up with something where I get somebody on stage, blindfold them and while they are blindfolded, they mix it up and then they can solve the cube in 30 seconds or so.
DoJMA: Have you ever experienced stage fright? And how did you overcome it?
Karan: Yeah, when I started performing I was very scared. My first show was on 30th January 2008. I was in 11th grade and was performing for the farewell of 12th grade and was given three and a half minutes on stage but I ended up performing for 10 minutes because the first six and a half minutes were nerve-wracking. Then somebody came up and they sort of calmed me down.
I have never been someone who is extroverted and someone who is happy to be on stage. I like my own company and I like sitting alone. The stage was not something that came naturally to me but now it does. Anyone who has seen me perform for the last three or four years would not believe this story but initially, I was very scared and before every show, I felt that this time it will go wrong and many-a-times, it did but eventually I just fell in love with the idea of performing on stage.
I was almost certain that I won’t be able to perform on stage and the first six and a half minutes when that was happening I had made up my mind not to perform again in my life. But at the end of that, the last trick that I did in the show got immense applause. That was the moment I realized that this is the only thing that I want to do for the rest of my life so even if I was scared I pushed myself to be on stage because I loved the idea of entertaining so many people.
DoJMA: Engineering comes with a set of prescribed courses and a general framework set out for the students but when it comes to magic there’s nothing of that sort. How do you decide where to learn from and what to learn?
Karan: I think there’s no prescribed set of things that you can do. When I started with magic, all I knew for the initial two years were two tricks and then I started doing online research. While researching I found all sorts of different things. Then I bought books, DVDs. I sort of trained myself to do what I wanted to do. There was no prescribed course; it was just me finding my own path. Very few people know that even magic has genres like music and I had to find the genre which appealed to me. Initially, if you learn music you have to learn the chords, the Sa Re Ga Ma…, and it’s the same with magic. There are seven things that you have to learn and then you can make up your own tricks. I had no idea that I was going to go delve into mind reading and hypnosis. So, it was all through learning on my own, looking up online and watching a lot of other magicians performing.
DoJMA: Did you ever collaborate or learn anything from other magicians?
Karan: No, there is no one who teaches magic. If you come up to me and ask me to teach music I would be happy to do but with magic, the whole idea is to keep the secret so if I tell you the secret behind it then it’s just a silly little trick for you.
When you get into it, you feel as if you would be able to do these fantastic things and it’s only once you learn the silly tricks that you realize that it’s just sad and pathetic and it sort of pulls you away from the grandeur of magic. I fell in love with the pathetic-ness of it and that is why I won’t teach anyone and that’s why no one would teach me.
I did formal training in things that aided me in magic. I studied theatre from London which helped me with the dramatics of it and the showmanship because that’s far more important than the trick. I am a certified hypnotherapist but I don’t do therapy. I do hypnosis meaning I won’t heal anyone but I would entertain them with hypnosis.
DoJMA: Why do you prefer the term psychological illusionist over that of a magician?
Karan: When I started with this at around sixteen years of age, my main source of living was performing at birthday parties because that’s what the whole idea of magic was. If I went to people and told them that I was a magician their first reaction would be here’s our one-year-old, entertain him. But the kinds of things that I was doing were quite different. Now that I do these corporate shows I constantly get asked the question that “Could you make my wife disappear?” It’s pathetic but that’s the stereotype associated with magic so I tend to stay away from the word magician even though my stage name is Karan Singh Magic.
I call myself a psychological illusionist because I don’t like the term magician and also because it’s more in line with what I do and that is mixing psychology and illusion.
DoJMA: You have performed for many celebrities and here, you are performing for an audience comprised of students. Can we expect something specifically student-centric from your act tonight?
Karan: The videos that you see me in are primarily one to one interactions or there is a small group of four to five people whereas this is a stage show which is a completely different thing altogether even though it comprises of elements of the videos.
I like to believe that my videos are sh*t. The stage show has far more showmanship. I have performed a lot of shows but with students, it’s always so much more fun because they can relate to the stories that I am telling.
So, if I tell a story from my childhood that I started magic to impress a girl named Priyanka, it’s quite relatable. In fact, the entire show has been designed in a way to appeal to an audience of eighteen to twenty-four-year olds because it’s that audience which gives the best reactions on the planet and they find it (the performance) quite relatable because more than just the trick there’s a story to the show.
It’s a one-man play without you realizing that it’s a play and the actors are the audience who come to know of it only when the play ends.
DoJMA: Now that you are performing for a huge crowd instead of the one-on-one shows that you are used to; will there be a recurrence of your stage fright?
Karan: No, not anymore. Now I can’t wait to get on stage. I can be drunk and passed out at three thirty in the night and if someone comes up to me and says that you have to be on stage in five minutes I will be ready because I love it so much.
It’s like a drug you can’t get enough of. The attention that it gets you it’s fantastic. As a kid who was an introvert, just getting that kind of attention is brilliant and also it’s so much fun to perform. Just hearing that applause and thinking that people are leaving happier than they were when they came is what compels me to get on the stage.