As it has with most performance arts, the internet has completely changed the rules when it comes to magic. While many younger magicians have embraced a radically transformed version of the art that plays well on YouTube, many older magicians with a more traditional view of the industry are struggling to stay afloat.
Nowhere is that more obvious than in India, where a rich history of live magic is being threatened by performers quitting the industry in droves. A report in GulfNews featured interviews with a number of sadly retired magicians, many of whom blame the internet, or their lack of a response to it, for the premature ending of their magic careers.
“When people began shifting to the electronic media, I did not take the transformation seriously,” said Prakash Pant, a former magician now working as a real estate broker. “Not adapting to change soon led to facing awkward moments during the shows. Before I realised what harm my obstinacy would do, the shows stopped coming.”
Krishan Gopal is no longer a magician, but has turned his reputation for magic performances to his advantage. He now provides consultation for psychosomatic ailments and depression.
“Magic is a fine art that requires immense practice,” he explained, “but even in the age of technological advancement, some people continue to think that a magician is a tantric (occultist) and approach me for solutions for all kinds of weird problems.”
Even successful performers like Op Sharma and Op Sharma Junior have felt the internet’s impact on their business.
“There is so much information and entertainment available on the Internet that people tend to spend a lot of time online and they are left with little time to step out of the confines of their house to enjoy live shows,” Op Sharma Jr. told local media.
But the issue is not just a matter of magicians being unable to pull people away from their computer screens. Op Sharma and son also think the Indian government’s lack of spending on the arts is also contributing to the declining interest in magic.
“In foreign countries, governments come forth to encourage talent and support the artistes,” they said. “In several cities of India, we have to perform at cinema halls or at other places because there are no government auditoriums, which points to the fact that cultural activities are not being promoted.”