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Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Veteran Indian illusionist RK Malayath aims to spread the message of global peace through his Gulf stage shows, beginning in January, reports KK Moidu
RK Malayath, who contributed immensely to popularise modern magic — is in the UAE. He will perform stage shows all over the Gulf. His fourth visit to the UAE after a hiatus of 12 years will be noteworthy for his latest production, Mental Magic, in which he will attempt to read peoples' minds. His earlier Gulf stage shows Mohanlal and the Magic Lamp along with Malayalam superstar Mohanlal was in 1995. Malayath, in fact, taught Mohanlal a few magic tricks for the film Manthrikam. Malayath's long career, spanning more than four decades, has helped in giving the word "magic" a new meaning in India. He hails from teak-rich Nilambur, also known as the "Magic capital" of Kerala. He has played an important role in separating magic from superstitious beliefs, thus saving the art. According to him, magic has six principles; production, vanishing, transformation, transposition, mental magic and artistic gravity. With these principles, an illusionist can perform any magic trick. He can also invent new ideas for his programmes. Malayath said that performing new tricks is not the difficult part in a show. The greatest challenge of magic is the rising cost of the equipment, accessories and costumes! His troupe consists of more than 20 members, excluding members of his family. A stage show costs more than Indian Rs50,000 (Dhs5,000). When asked about a fully-equipped magic show in the Gulf, he spoke on the difficulties in transporting the equipment needed for a show that weigh about three tonnes. The initial show will cost Dhs200,000 but repeat performances will cost only Dhs50,000. Malayath's family may be the only one in India to perform professional magic. His wife Nirmala, elder son Rakin (Jr Malayath), an MBA holder, and younger son Nikin, are also practitioners of the art. His wife Nirmala took a break from magic during her tenure as the chairperson of Nilambur Grama Panchayath (Nilambur Village Organisation). Malayath is the only one in the country who can perform magic and hypnotism together. Others present magic and hypnotism on one stage too, but they are performed by different people. Malayath learned hypnotism from the late AT Kovoor, well-known anti-superstition activist. Together they performed magic and hypnotism on many stages. Malayath started a special programme Mentarama, a stage hypnotic programme in 1983. He has performed stage shows, not only in different parts of India, but also in the Gulf and other foreign countries like Japan. He was the one who revolutionised magic by presenting 3D Magic in Thrikkarippur in Kasargode district of Kerala in 1992. It was the first performance of 3D Magic in India. He was known as the "king of magic" in Kerala in the late 70s and 80s. He always has social messages in his magic performances. Malayath selects themes related to social issues and always gives strong exposure to the dangers of communalism, terrorism and social injustice. He is the winner of the maiden Fantasia Award, instituted in the memory of Prof. Bhagyanath, by the Indian Magic Academy. RK Malayath was born in South Kuttoor, near Thirur, son of Thiyyadath Puthanveettil Raman Nair and Malayath Kunjikuttiyamma. He completed his schooling from Nilambur Manadevan High School. He did his pre degree from MES College Mambad and BCom degree from Sree Guruvayoorappan College, Kozhikode. Nilambur has always had a fascination for magic and it also affected Malayath quite early in his life. His attraction for performing magic started at a very young age. How he entered the field is itself a piece of magic. A magic show failed in Nilambur and it ended up with the magician being manhandled. The audience was unsympathetic, though it was the first performance of the magician. In order to keep peace with the audience, a stranger performed few tricks with cards and ribbons and disappeared from the stage — like another magic act. The audience was impressed by his performance. The performer was Prof. Alikhan from Manjeri. Malayath was one among the audience who witnessed this event. He was taken in by the presence of mind of the performer. He too wanted to be like him. He went to Manjeri to fulfill his magic dreams. Malayath learned early lessons of magic from Manjeri Alikhan. Later he got an opportunity to study magic from the legendary Vazhakkunnam, famous for his skills, during his college days in Kozhikode. In order to learn more, he went to Kolkata and worked with famous magicians of West Bengal. Although Malayath's first guru was Manjeri Alikhan, he performed his first stage show with Prof Vazhakkunnam, the "Grand Father of Kerala Magic." After completing his education, Malayath joined the New India Assurance Company as a development officer. He was dismissed from service because of his complaint to the Indian Prime Minister for not allowing him eligible casual leave to perform a National Integrity programme. He returned to the service because of the intervention of political and cultural frontliners like EMS, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Vaikkam Muhammed Basheer, KT Muhammed, P Govinda Pillai, VR Krishna Iyer, etc. Later, he took voluntary retirement from the company and totally concentrated on "magic with a social cause." After his marriage, Malayath's wife Nirmala also joined the troupe and together they performed on many stages. Malayath, the founding president of the Kerala Magic Circle, links magic with art and science. As a college student, he performed magic tricks and formed the first student's federation for the performance art, namely, Magic Study Circle. At the peak of his career, he took a break and became a bus operator. He continued his social service in the bus, named Maanava Maithri. He painted and wrote awareness stickers on the dangers of communalism, importance of education, poverty eradication etc. on his buses. His awareness campaign was mocked by the people. Some of them laughed at him by saying that if anybody travelled on Malayath's bus, they could appear for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) exams, since so much information was given on them! Malayath, who turned magic into a weapon for addressing social issues, differs from other professional magicians. His rally from Kasargode to Thiruvananthapuram (North to South of Kerala) against communalism was inaugurated by no less than the literary doyen Vaikkam Muhammed Basheer. As a magician, his productions like Road Safety Magic, AIDS Awareness, Daredevil Driving (riding a motor cycle after blindfolding his eyes with a black cloth), Freedom 50 Magic Show, Rajyaraksha Mayajal, Communal Harmony & Integration through Rail Magic from Kerala to Mumbai and Kerala to Delhi, A Photo Exhibition of Hiroshima Institute of Peace Foundation, Manvikas, Akshayajalam, Mental Health Awareness Magic, etc. are only a few among his outstanding creations. His National Integrity programme before Parliament was inaugurated by MA Baby, Kerala education minister. Veteran Indian actor Kamal Hassan presented a golden shawl to Malayath for his efforts in raising awareness against communalism and also for presenting magic shows at 1,000 centres. Famous short story writer and novelist Dr Punathil Kunhabdulla wrote a short story RK Malayath after being impressed by Malayath's performance. It was published in the leading Malayalam publication Malayala Manorama weekly. In order to keep magic alive and for training the next generation, Malayath has founded Malayath Magical Entertainers in Nilambur. He is the director of the institution that gives training in magic, conjuring and illusions, hypnosis, self-hypnosis and auto-suggestion. It has facilities like a library and a stage for public performance. But alas! Though he has made plenty of contributions to society through his magic, the government has not recognised him by honouring his talent. It may be his failure to market himself, which is perhaps an unavoidable factor in a modest man. But nevertheless, he continues to pursue magic as a mission. He has made sure his legacy will live on, since his son Rakin is continuing his work. We can hope that Rakin, who made his magic debut with the astonishing and difficult item "fire escape," will not be a failure in marketing, because he is an MBA graduate!