TW's GM: THE GREAT SORCAR
A photographic monograph on his 50th birthday. Published by All India Magic Circle.
SORCAR MAHARAJA OF MAGIC
Collection of articles and letters about Sorcar from renowned magicians, statesmen, and prominent people around the world.
TW's GM - THE GREAT SORCAR
A photographic monograph on his 50th birthday), Publisher: All India Magic Circle, Calcutta, India. Its prologue by Milbourne Christopher, New York, is reproduced entirely below with specific permission from the publisher):
The Maharaja of Magic. China's greatest magician was Ching Foo. France's most famous conjuror was Robert-Houdin. England's master illusionist was David Devant. India's all-time star of stage sorcery is Sorcar. No other Indian wizard, past or present, comes close to matching his reputation, his honors or his tours. And it is not only in India that the dazzling deceptions of Sorcar have delighted audiences, but also in Japan, Australia, England, Russia, the United States and elsewhere.
Sorcar is, to the best of my knowledge,
the only illusionist performing today who has his own complete production
center. His scenery and his illusions are designed, built, painted and
rehearsed on his premises in Calcutta. Through the years his presentations
have been constantly improved and arranged more artistically. His understanding
of stage lighting, music and basic human appeals is impressive. As a fellow
illusionist I am constantly delighted by his advance in these areas.
He is also an ingenious advertiser, a shrewd
publicist and an astute business man. His promotional material matches
the propaganda deviced by Hollywood's ace press agents and the promoters
of the world's outstanding stage, opera and concert attractions.
I met him for the first time fifteen years
ago in Chicago. He had flown there from India to appear at the Combined
Convention of the Society of American Magicians and the International Brotherhood
of Magicians. In his gold coat, jeweled turban and shoes with turned-up
toes he stood out like a flash of fire among the conventional dinner jackets,
evening clothes and business suits. His reputation had preceded him. Everyone
recognized India's Maharaja of Magic on sight.
On stage and off Sorcar made friends quickly.
Blackstone, dean of America's Stage Illusionists, sketched plans for him
of two of his principal feats. Okito, the father of Fu Manchu and the fifth
generation of Holland's court-magician bamberg family, swapped secrets
of celestial wizardry.
We were close in age, Sorcar and I, and
close in thought. We talked for hours about how to make our ancient art
more intriguing and more popular in our widely separated parts of the world.
Then back and forth our letters went half way around the globe. I followed
avidly his ventures and kept him posted on mine.
In my reference files in New York are thousands
of letters, lithographs, playbills, reviews and other memorabilia covering
the careers of Pinetti, Anderson, Herman, Thurston, Carter, Houdini and
other luminaries of the world legerdemain. The section devoted to Sorcar
is the largest of any living illusionist.
Here are clippings, photographs, programs
and first-hand accounts of his journeys to Cairo, Melbourne, Paris, Tokyo
and London. Here are the heralds and broadsides used by him in Moscow and
Leningrad, in Tehran and Tanganyika.
Sorcar, like keller before him, is a citizen
of the world; at home in different cultures, in distant climes. He is an
ambassador without portfolio of India, bringing with him wherever he goes
the traditions and heritage of "the home of mystery".
In 1957 Producer's Showcase invited me
to arrange monumental NBC television program featuring the great magicians
of the world. I was soon on the trans Atalntic telephone to Calcutta and
Sorcar was soon on his way to New York to play an important part in the
hour-and-half production. It was televised in both color, and black and
white, and was seen by more than 33,000,000 viewers in the United States
and by more millions in Europe when it was televised there.
A note here about Sorcar's artistic integrity.
When it was suggested that he might bring his key assistants, that other
could be engaged in New York, he answered that he could present his magic
properly only with his regular staff. It was his own precision-trained
company that appeared with him on the show.
A few nights after the telecast he appeared
in person before the Society of American Magicians during its Convention
in Hartford, Conn. As an added treat, he included in his routine several
feats that had not been seen on video. He received a standing ovation when
he made his bow at the Banquet.
We met again in England when The Magic
Circle celebrated its Golden Jubilee in London. Then later when I toured
the British Isles with my illusion show I was pleased to hear managers
and stage hands in several cities reminisce of Sorcar's British tour and
the impact his buzz saw illusion had on BBC-TV.
Our paths crossed again in Boston and several
times he has visited me in New York. On the most recent trip, when he came
to the World's Fair, he brought with him two more P.C. Sorcars, his sons.
Last year I arranged several television
and live appearances in Hollywood so that I could stop off and see him
in Las Vegas, that strange desert city which is the center of the world's
night club show business.
He has lost none of his enthusiasm. His
eyes still sparkle as he sketches a device to make one piece of overhead
stage rigging do the work of two, or outlines the way he has tied in current
events with modern magic. His rocket illusion is complete with assistants
in astronaut grab and appropriate cloud like settings.
To the public Sorcar is flamboyant, his
trappings are lavish, his publicity is bold and eye-catching. In private
life he is another person - quiet, scholarly and unassuming. He is an active
Rotarian and has attended their luncheons in such far-flung places as Dar-es-Salaam,
and Nairobi. Here he meets the important civic leaders of the places, he
plays and here he talks to them about the fascination of magic in the world
of today. When I joined him one afternoon in Las Vegas at a Rotary meeting
I had to scan the room several times before I picked him out. There was
nothing theatrical about his cloths or demeanor.
There is a difference between the magicians
who offers a short program and the illusionist who carries tons of paraphernalia
and many assistants. One masters a brief routine, the other is an executive
who runs a complete business enterprise. The successful illusionist must
not only be a dynamic showman, but also a master in public relations. He
must be thoroughly versed in the problems of logistics, stage craft, international
monetary systems and world commerce. He routes his attraction with the
skill of a diplomat, following the temper of the times in the areas of
the world which are his arenas.
When, Sorcar a scholar from Calcutta University,
began his career as a professional wonder worker, the world at large knew
Indian Magic as something a traveler had seen in a sultry, crowded street.
In all of the fabled land of mystery there was not one illusionist with
credit of an established international full evening show. Sorcar dreamed
of the spectacles of Thurston and Dante and strove to establish magic as
a cherished part of India's cultural life. Prodigious study, experimentation
and an unrelenting drive to succeed brought him to the fore. Woven in the
rich tapestry his current productions are not only baffling illusions,
but authentic Indian art, costume and ritual as well.
It has been said that a prophet is without
honor in his own country. Not so with Sorcar. The Government has awarded
him PADMASRI, he is the perennial president of the All India Magic Circle
and he breaks theatre box-office records in Calcutta's New Empire as well
as in theatres abroad.
Just a few moments ago I put a reel on
my tape machine, threaded it and pressed the switch. On the other side
of the globe Indian musicians played his overture. A burst of applause,
then the familiar voice acknowledging his reception. In my mind's eye I
conjured up the scene, his smile, his costume and the settings of the New
Empire Theatre. I relaxed in my chair and listened. It was as if I were
in the audience myself enjoying the magic of Sorcar. (Signed, Milbourne
Christopher, November 1965, New York City, USA)
HISTORY OF MAGIC
Author: P.C. Sorcar. Publisher: Indrajal Publications, Ballygunj, Calcutta, India. First Publication 1970. The book's Introduction was written by Dr. John N. Booth, Los Alamitos, California, USA; it is reproduced below with specific permission from the publisher):
by Dr. John N. Booth, World Travel and Adventure Lectures, Magician, USA
The world of Indian scholarship should
welcome this addition to its literature of conjuring. It
is not often that a nation's foremost illusionist has the time, knowledge
or capacity to confront a typewriter for such a project as this one. Most
conjurers are activists; a few are intellectuals; only the tiniest number
view the art in cultural terms that go beyond the here and now.
P.C. Sorcar's lifetime dedication to his
profession has developed a depth of concern for its survival and elevation
that is rare in the modern world. Almost uniquely successful as a box accuse
attraction with his giant shows, he has never hesitated to spend tidal
amounts of money simply to introduce quality and expand the influence of
the cultural side of legerdemain.
As I have turned the pages of his latest
work, The History of Magic, his purpose in writing the volume becomes evident.
He is trying to place magic in the perspective of mankind's long time endeavor
to achieve an understanding of illusion. Illusion has sometimes meant superstition;
on occasion it has been synonymous with charlatanism; faulty viewing of
reality, through the various senses, is another significant aspect.
The Great Sorcar, as he is known throughout
the world, leads us through these various dimensions of the world toward
the greater end he holds in view. He perceives illusion as something to
be embraced for delightful entertainment. There is nothing superficial
about the overtones and undertones of this grand conception. Indeed, he
catches a vision of its basic meaning to all culture. And he would tie
it together in such a way that we can understand better his goal of erecting
an institute in India to further the study of illusion as an academic discipline
and a performing art.
Napoleon once described history as a fable
agreed upon. This definition is suitably enlarged by Lamartine's definition
that sees history as biography on a large scale. Sorcar has appropriately
and modestly dealt with the pre-history of magic with the caution due "a
fable agreed upon". Assumptions must be in order in handling the unproven.
Then, in more definite sweeps, he ventures into the area of biography.
Men create events and the history of magic must be the story of those leaders
whose words and works perpetuate and advance the art.
It is when he discusses the psychology
of illusion in Part II that those of us who have been studying conjuring
a lifetime become especially absorbed. It is here that conjuring departs
from so many other forms of amusement. Seldom does a writer bring together
in one manuscript the essence of illusion as the magician knows it. More
attention will be paid to this in the future. Sorcar has emphasized this
is the present book.
At first, I was troubled to find explained
here a basic principle that can be, and has been, used to perform two great
stage feats: the vanishing piano and sawing a woman in halves. Note that
I have written a basic principle, not the basic principle. Conjuring is
so rich in methodology and illusion that no one concept is necessarily
basic to any major effect. The earth seldom revolves many times around
the sun without a magician somewhere devising a variation, an improvement
or a vigorous new concept for the old.
Although Mr. Sorcar has exposed, in the
interest of demonstrating the multitude of illusion techniques devised
by our artists, two classic stage mysteries he would be the first to confess
that he would go on the platform tonight and fool his audiences with these
same tricks... even if they have read this book. He would simply employ
another form of illusion. Thus the audience would not miss the essential
factor of being entertainingly deceived. A master of many forms of illusion,
for the same general effect, can accomplish this.
India's great wizard wishes to establish
the permanence of his art, on its highest levels, through gaining national
acceptance and support for an educational institute. It is a dream no man
has yet brought to concrete reality. But Sorcar has done the impossible
so many times that the Western World, not to mention the Eastern, will
not be surprised if he succeeds.
We recall how the eminent escape artist,
Harry Houdini, and the editor/published of one of the world's foremost
magazines for magicians (The Sphinx), Dr. A.M. Wilson, envisioned a University
of Magic, over half a century ago. A university was a grandiose, unrealistic
idea. But then perhaps the two visionaries were careless semantically.
Nine courses comprised their version of
a university curriculum. The divisions are worth mentioning. Magic as an
Art and Science would dominate the beginning orientation course. This would
be followed by other studies embracing the History of Prestidigitation,
the Philosophy of Conjuring, the Psychology of Magic, the Ethics of the
Art, the Presentation of Tricks, the Preparations for the Career in the
Profession, Advertising for Magicians, and, finally, Showmanship for Magical
Entertainers. This ambitious plan hoped to set forth all that a dilettante
or professional might wish to learn and master.
In the years since this abortive dream
was announced, many textbooks have emerged from printing presses in various
countries dealing with these multitudinous aspects of legerdemain. They
would fill a nine foot book self. P.C. Sorcar, himself, has made notable
literary contributions to this treasure prior to writing the present volume.
Now he adds a cornerstone to his own edifice of books, a work that augments
the texts that someday he expects will serve as bases for a conjuring institute
of permanent status.
Perhaps the greatest merit in the current
work is its brevity in relation to tee scope of the subject. Its readers
will be stimulated to pursue research into the lesser known facets of the
material discussed here. It is a good teacher who deliberately refrains
from being exhaustive. Instead, he points to crucial developments and personalities
and inspires the student to explore more deeply for himself. In this age
of speed, a disciplined limitation on comprehensiveness will introduce
the subject to the casual reader who desires to go no further; but it should
encourage the serious student and practitioner to select areas for additional
study. Thus, I visualize this volume as an important springboard for learning
when classes begin in the Sorcar Institute of Conjuring.
Conjuring describes the art of entertaining
with illusion. Magic is the word that loosely covers this same field but
also implies a supernatural connection as in early religions or in contemporary
occult happenings. The ethics of conjuring demand that an entertainer with
tricks not falsely depict the nature of his works by fraudulent claims.
Therefore, an art dedicated to illusions of deception becomes, anachronistically,
one of the most honest of all professions. Indeed, in an effort to be forthright
about techniques of the kind that underlie this entertainment, and create
an interest in their cultural associations, Sorcar has detailed a number
of them for inquiring readers.
The World is fortunate that The Great Sorcar,
despite threats to retire, is still presenting his illusions behind the
footlights of the globe's leading theatres. A thrill arises from reading
a man's own testimony about the history of his profession, and then being
able to watch him work, and study why he commands the leading position
among all illusionists. Does India realize what a fantastically rare combination
of talents are assembled in her native son? Or the true extent of his generous
contributions to the cultural life of his nation and the respect in which
this is held by the rest of the World?
History should be studied as an example
from which to learn ways to function with added wisdom, growth and meaning.
This book points out what some men have thought and done in the past and
the present. May its insights and descriptions serve the practice and history
of conjuring in the manner that P.C. Sorcar envisions. (Signed by John
Nicholls Booth, World Travel and Adventure Lectures, Magician, June 19,
1970, Los Alamitos, California, USA)
The dust-cover text about the book is as follows (Reprinted with permission from the publisher):
Since her birth Magic has been a superb
art for entertainment. At par with her jealous rivals - Dance, Drama and
Music - she has jostled out her way into the world as their honoured partner
and has now established herself in full glory and refulgence, getting admittance
into cultural exchange programme of the world. Still she awaits acceptance
as an academic discipline through university recognition. P.C. Sorcar has
caught this vision with all the sincerity of purpose and rubustness of
faith in the basic meaning of beauty and culture that is inherent in Magic.
Dedicated to the noble cause of Magic for its elevation and survival Sorcar
when awake speaks magic and when asleep dreams magic - its past, present,
and future; its achievement, failure, resurrection and promise. In his
sleepy dreams he masticates history of legerdemain and in wakeful leisure
pours it into typography with masterly brevity. He has fused theory and
its mode of application with his balanced suggestion into a story of absorbing
interest and exciting curiosity.
To know more is to dive deep and Sorcar's
cultural genius and professional ingenuity has been commendable synthesised
to lay this platform for the learner to dive. The pool is small but all
the same it is neat, clean, and easy for the beginners to assay picking
up of the gems serene that lie within. He has set the corner stone for
the building up of the super structure of the edifice of his dream, that
is colossal survival of Magic in the domain of art, culture and literature.
In this small treatise he has purposely confined himself to 'disciplined
limitation' working his pen to lucid impressiveness. With a masterly hand
he has pointed to crucial developments and personalities that crrelate
into a fascinating story to inspire the students of Magic to explore more.
Photographs of rarest collection have been special charms of the book.
The pictures here speak more eloquently than the pen and this treatise
is handy compendium for the juvenile learner of the History of Magic. As
an illusive art Magic has eluded history and Sorcar's attempt for catch
in the pen and the camera is really inspiring.