A good magician never reveals her secrets: Suhani Shah

This upcoming show by Suhani Shah in Bengaluru is all set to answer your every curiosity on mentalism. She opens up about her craft, how mentalism is different from psychology and lots more...
A good magician never reveals her secrets: Suhani Shah
A good magician never reveals her secrets: Suhani Shah

First, there was magic, which has always intrigued us since childhood. Now, we have a new wave of mentalism that is picking up in India and much of that credit goes to mentalists like Suhani Shah, who has opened up more possibilities in the realm of mentalism, making the craft accessible to diverse audiences across the country. From starting her career at a very young age to collaborating with many Indian and international celebrities, Suhani has come a long way. Now with Chamatkaar, her pan-India tour, which is in Bengaluru this weekend, Suhani is all set to blow minds with her craft. But before that, she lets us in on what Chamatkaar will entail, how she began her journey as a mentalist and lots more…

Can you give us a sneak peek into your upcoming performance in Bengaluru?
In the upcoming performance in Bengaluru, titled Chamatkaar, audiences can look forward to a captivating blend of magic and mentalism. Throughout the show, I will delve into the mysterious realms of mind-reading, predicting the future and influencing the thoughts of our spectators. Chamatkaar is a celebration of the extraordinary moments we encounter in our daily lives, revealing the enchantment inherent in our very existence. This 120-minute extravaganza will take our audience on a mesmerising journey, culminating in my perspective on what true Chamatkaar or miracles are all about. Our ultimate goal is to not only entertain and astonish but also to inspire and empower our audience members, leaving them with a renewed sense of wonder and amazement.

<strong><em>Suhani Shah</em></strong>
Suhani Shah

You came across mentalism at a very young age. How did that happen?
I started my career as an illusionist when I was seven years old. My performances included acts that gave the illusion of flying, sawing people in half and bringing them back to life, of course. These astonishing feats often led people to believe in supernatural powers or a special connection to higher forces, prompting me to clarify that it was all about the art of magic and the power of imagination. Along the way, I encountered individuals who turned to me for help, asking me to use my ‘magical’ abilities to solve crimes or heal physical and mental ailments. These encounters fueled my curiosity about the human mind and psychology, inspiring me to delve deeper into the field and document my insights in books. This journey of self-discovery led me to merge my passion for psychology with my performing art, resulting in the creation of a full-fledged mentalism show where I continue to captivate and inspire audiences by exploring the depths of the human psyche.

How does one train as a mentalist and how long does it take for one to get where you are now?
Training to become a mentalist, like mastering any performing art, doesn’t come with a fixed timeline. It’s a journey that varies for each individual, shaped by their dedication, practice and inherent abilities. Improvement is directly proportional to the amount of practice and performance one undertakes. Furthermore, in the realm of art, I believe, there are no rigid levels of expertise; it’s a subjective experience. Every artiste brings something distinct to the stage and there’s an audience for every style and approach. Ultimately, the path to becoming a proficient artiste is as diverse as the art itself, with no set time frame for reaching a certain level of mastery.

How do you plan your shows and deliver it the way you want it to?
Planning and delivering my shows involves a straightforward but meticulous process. I begin by envisioning the kind of performance I, as an audience member, would enjoy watching. Typically, I create a new show every year, sometimes taking a few years to develop the concept fully. The first step is to define the show’s storyline with absolute clarity, ensuring I understand precisely what I aim to convey and the emotions I want the audience to experience. Once these foundational elements are in place, which often takes the most time, my team and I craft the emotional journey we intend to guide our audience through. Subsequently, we focus on designing the individual acts that will bring the entire vision to life. Every show is a deeply personal and collaborative endeavour, featuring the talents of individuals such as Mehak Mirza Prabhu, a skilled writer and director, David Nobo, our magic consultant; and a team of dedicated light and music technicians, all working in harmony to create the magical experience.

<strong><em>Suhani Shah</em></strong>
Suhani Shah

Mentalism is a deep understanding of the human psyche but is very different from how we see psychology taking shape now. How would you say these two terms are different?
Mentalism and contemporary psychology indeed intersect, yet they diverge in fundamental ways. While psychology is a scientific discipline focused on understanding human behaviour, emotions and mental processes through empirical research and clinical studies; mentalism is an art form that entertains by creating the illusion of tapping into the mysteries of the human mind. Mentalism relies on perception, suggestion and performance techniques to amaze and engage audiences, whereas psychology employs scientific methods to explore the complexities of the human psyche, often for therapeutic or research purposes. In essence, mentalism provides a theatrical and illusory perspective on the mind, whereas psychology aims for a systematic and applied understanding.

Mentalism as a concept has started to pick up pace in India and you are one of the reasons for it. Why do you think there was a lack of popularity in recent years?
I agree that not only mentalism but magic as a whole has witnessed a resurgence in popularity in recent years, especially in India. Several factors contribute to this trend. To name a few, firstly, the influence of social media has played a significant role. During the pandemic, we created more online content, which
garnered widespread viewership and increased the visibility of magic as an art form. Additionally, the inclusion of more magicians on reality shows globally has boosted the public’s interest. Moreover, there seems to be a growing acceptance of diverse art forms beyond traditional pursuits like dance, singing and comedy, allowing magic to find its place in the spotlight.

Are there people you look up to in the mentalism space?
Absolutely, within the realm of mentalism, I find inspiration from various sources. One notable figure I deeply admire is Derren Brown for his innovative approach to presenting mentalism to audiences. However, my wellspring of inspiration extends beyond the boundaries of mentalism itself. I draw immense creative energy from diverse art forms such as storytelling, music, juggling, comedy and more. It’s the interplay of these artistic influences and the intricacies of our daily lives that truly motivate me to continually refine and elevate my performances.

You left school at a very early age. How did the consistent support of people close to you help you successfully pursue your passion?
The unwavering support of those close to me, particularly my parents, has been instrumental in my journey. Their belief in my passion for magic has provided me with the foundation upon which I built my career. Along the way, I encountered individuals who generously extended their assistance in various ways, reinforcing the power of human connection and collaboration. Importantly, I’ve come to understand that success is a product of resilience and determination — when you refuse to give up and keep pushing forward, you can create your own success, regardless of the challenges you face.

What can we expect from you for the rest of the year and in 2024?
A good magician never reveals her secrets.

INR 499 onwards. September 22, 7.30 pm. At Dr BR Ambedkar Bhavan, Millers Road

Email: alwin@newindianexpress.com
Twitter: @al_ben_so

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