By Nita Bhatkar Chogle
Special to The Times Kuwait
Chirag Jethwaney, celebrity illusionist and mentalist from Mumbai, India was recently in Kuwait to perform at the 25th anniversary celebration of Indian Women’s Association. To watch Chirag perform and not be mesmerised or even shocked with disbelief is not uncommon. During a one-hour performance at the event, attendees saw him reveal a guest’s first crush, transfer a heart drawn on his hand to a young lady’s palm, tickle one guest and make another one feel the tickle, and successfully reveal what was in someone’s mind.
During his act, he even had guests pick out random picture cards that he then correctly called out. Moreover, when these random cards were put into the right order, they unbelievably spelt out ‘Kuwait’. All of these acts were performed as more than 250 sets of eyes were focused on him, and with his every move projected on a large screen on stage.
He ended his show on a high note with a summary of different things uncovered by different guests at different times during the show. All of this was written down on a piece of paper he had handed over to a random guest in a sealed envelope before he jumped into action.
His performance is mysterious and magical with a dash of trickery and charm, all of which leaves one wondering, ‘How did he do it?’
We caught up with Chirag for an exclusive interview to learn more about his journey in magic that went from passion to profession. But first, we wanted to know how he did what he did.
“I get that question a lot; it comes with the nature of my work. If I tell you they’ll ban me at Hogwarts and that is a risk I can’t afford. But what I will say is this, all I do is rooted in psychology, principles of magic, sleight of hand, paying attention to verbal and non-verbal cues, a little bit of science, a lot of showmanship and a hint of something else! When you bring together all these skills, you can create what looks like the impossible and hopefully amaze everyone. “
Asked whether he was always interested in magic and how it became a profession, the magician said: “ I’ve always been a fan of magic. My dad showed me a trick when I was 15 and didn’t tell me how it was done. This made me want to figure it out. I pulled out graph papers, protractors, pie charts and yes, I finally found out how it was done. May I add, the protractors didn’t help. I then showed my dad how it was done and his reaction was amazing.
“Over time I just wanted to learn more magic, largely as a hobby and eventually delved into books on magic. I never intended to become a professional magician; it was by accident, albeit a happy one, that I ended up making magic my profession. I had a cool job as a marketing executive, and wanted to add some color to my life over the weekends. Magic and mentalism helped me add a kaleidoscopic range of colors to my life in all their hues and shades. I would approach bars and clubs, get into networking with others in the same field; and one thing led to the next and voila, here I am now.”
Asked to name his role model, Jethwaney replied: “There are so many. Joshua Jay is one of my favorite magicians of all time. There are others such as David Blaine, Derren Brown, Criss Angel, and David Copperfield, who’ve inspired me to be a better performer through emulating their rigorous dedication to the art of magic. Although of late it’s been fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes that really help me strive to become better. It’s fiction for sure, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be real.
He went on to explain that being a mentalist did not require any inborn talent. “All the things that I do can be learnt if one spends enough time on it. For starters, one needs to observe, absorb and trust one’s instincts. That said, a little sugar, spice and all things nice can only help.
“I enjoy testing blind spots in human cognition and so I do test various principles out to see how it flies practically. This helps me be a better performer and surprise people in the best ways possible. So the advantage here is to push the art forward.”
Revealing some of the celebrities in front of whom he has performed, Jethwaney said, “I have over the years performed in front of quite a few celebrities, including actors Salman Khan, Allu Arjun, Varun Dhawan, former cricket captain Kapil Dev, the Sharks from Shark Tank – India, among others. They’ve all been amazing and respectful of the art. Although the one celebrity that I do want to perform for is Shah Rukh Khan, which I’m certain I will someday.”
Stressing that like any other profession, to be on top of magic one needs to practice diligently and regularly, the young magician explained: “ I spend 2-3 hours a day reading books on my field written by the pros, and also spend time studying this art form in detail. Not a day goes by when I don’t write down a new idea for a trick. I want to do a story that I want to tell people through my art. I read a lot of fiction and watch movies as well. While the former gives me insight into the inner recesses of the human mind, the latter gives me visual themes and cues to work with. I also study various other art forms. It’s brilliant how the understanding of one form of art can spill out into the other and enrich it to a great extent. Even so, sometimes I just do nothing and I feel that helps me the most.”
Asked about his future plans, the artist replied: “I haven’t been a big planner but I work very hard. I’m currently winging it to be honest, but I see a happy future, where I’m meeting amazing people all over the world and using my influence in my field to help a lot of animals. Protecting animals is a cause I hold dear. I also see myself amazing the person reading this right now, someday I hope our paths cross.