Online hocus-pocus adds magic to corona-sad lives | Kolkata News

    Kolkata: Even though the general consensus seems to be that the novel coronavirus isn’t going to suddenly disappear like magic, Kolkata’s illusionists have got their acts going… with help from a little bit of tech wizardry. So what if you can’t flock to the theatres just yet for fear of catching Covid? You can still catch some of the city’s best magic performers in the act, from your computer.
    Even as a large section of Kolkata’s white-collar workforce settles into the WFH format, a number of the city’s magicians have also been trying to do the same. They’ve been pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat from behind a computer screen, but with little tweaks to customise their acts for small laptop screens.
    “The primary challenge is to accept the fact that the 100 sq ft stage is now cramped into a 15-inch monitor,” says David Nobo, a city-based magic performer, who hosted a Zoom show after selling tickets through online platforms. “And there’s one other thing: you don’t have live audience feedback,” he adds. “In live shows, we feed off the energy of the audience.”
    David says he changed portions of his routine to accommodate tricks that could easily be seen on laptop or desktop screens. “I realised you don’t always require big boxes to host a show,” he says. “People constantly watch shows on YouTube in hi-res. Here, I had to make the show more interactive. I was moving around in a small room, while trying to make it equally theatrical.”
    Certain types of tricks lend themselves to the format-change more easily than others, felt others. While performing a levitation may not be initially possible on Zoom, tricks involving sleight of hand, playing cards, billiard balls or colour-changing flowers could be an instant hit. “I may not be able to perform something like cutting a girl in half on Zoom right now, but there are hundreds of other illusions that can be performed,” said performer Sourav Burman, who has for long performed on cruise ships, and is now planning to shift online. “Magic, after all, is all about engaging the audience and entertaining them.”
    David says he got in touch with an online ticketing platform for selling tickets, and his show got sold out well in advance. “We have to remember that people are also looking for a means to escape the grim reality that’s facing them,” Burman adds. “And while online shows might not be as financially rewarding as corporate shows, we can surely improve on that.”
    Raouf Gangjee, co-founder of Kalkutta Konjurors, a platform that regularly hosts magic open mic sessions, says even online platforms can be used to receive audience feedback. “They send feedback and comments through chats,” he says. “They even react after the show has ended. If social distancing is going to be the new normal, we have to adapt to the new channels of entertainment.”
    There are technical issues like connectivity problems and internet speed lags, but these are minor issues that could be ironed out, feel most performers, at a time magic seems to be getting its mojo back. Gangjee, who’s a stand-up-comedian himself, feels going back to the stage looks to be a distant possibility now. “Online shows are the future,” he says.

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