Zenia Bhumgara has been the star of many magic shows since she was five and even performed at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in Mumbai in 2007. But the 12-year-old magician from Mumbai says there is a big difference between Potter’s magic and hers: “Mine is the real stuff. I love to engage with the audience, see their expressions when I’m doing a trick. I think Potter’s magic is dark and can be a bit scary.”
Wanderers: Bhumgara (left) would love to go to a school like Hogwarts; Krishna wishes he could play Quidditch. Hemant Mishra / Mint
Fifteen-year-old Bangalore-based magician Karun Krishna launched the last book of the Potter series at Oxford Bookstore at the Leela Palace, Bangalore, last year, dressed as Potter. “I was only in class VI when the first book came out. After the book, I was always introduced as the ‘Indian Harry Potter’ at magic shows. I hope someday I will be as famous as him,” says Krishna, who has watched the five Potter movies several times over and can’t wait to see the latest one, which releases next week.
Seated in his living room, which is lined with the trophies he’s won since he began performing, Krishna decides to give me a live demo of his tricks, using a deck of cards. He asks me to draw a card. It’s the king of diamonds. I put it back, Krishna shuffles the deck and asks me to draw once more. I comply. “Can you show me the card in your hand?” he asks. To my surprise, I’d picked the king of diamonds again.
Krishna started performing magic tricks when he was only four, and discovered Harry Potter at the age of 11. Since he is not much of a reader, he has little idea of what will take place in the forthcoming Potter flick, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. “I have classmates who have read the book, and have been bringing the book to school to re-read before the release. They are threatening to tell me what happens. I have been begging them not to spoil the suspense,” he says.
For Bhumgara and Krishna, a “magician” is different from a “wizard”. Bhumgara says many of her friends and classmates wanted to learn magic after they read the Potter books or saw the movies. “But what you see in films or read in these books is more about fantasy and wizardry and less about magic. The tricks I perform take a lot of hard work and hours of practice, and are not just part of some hocus-pocus spells.”
Yet, like other teenagers, she too is looking forward to the release of the latest movie. “I think the special effects in the Harry Potter movies are exciting. Also I like the Hogwarts academy. I would have loved to go to a school like Hogwarts, but that is not possible,” she says.
Envious as he is of Potter’s world and his abilities, Krishna points out that the junior wizard’s life is not all that positive. “Much as I would love to go to school with other magicians, I would hate not being able to perform magic at school or worse, when I’m home, like Harry does when he goes back to live with his Muggle relatives,” says Krishna. In fact, he thinks it was quite sad that in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry and his wizard friends were not allowed to use their magic at all. “It’s only towards the end that Potter and his friends secretly used their spells without the permission of their teachers. That was really exciting, but in real life, if I was asked to not perform my magic, I’d hate it,” he adds.
Krishna has heard that in the new movie, Voldemort will be back with newer and stronger powers, and he hopes it will have loads of tricks, spells and special effects. And he is confident Potter will defeat Voldemort yet again. “When I watch the Potter films, I wish I could ride a broom and play Quidditch,” says Krishna, adding that he can beat all his friends at Quidditch video games. And in case he does not get to ride a broom, Krishna would like to own an invisibility cloak à la Potter.
Shaily Rangrez, another teen magician who has been performing since she was five, would rather have a magic wand—“with complete control over it”. The 14-year-old from Hyderabad keeps in touch with Potter’s world by watching all the movies. “I guess in that way we teen magicians are a lot like Potter and his friends, because even though we have the basic talent for magic, we still have to work hard at perfecting our skills,” says Rangrez, who is looking forward to the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince release. She can’t wait to see what Voldemort has up his sleeve this time and finds Hermione the most intelligent of the Potter gang.
Krishna says he had his Potter moment in 2005, when he managed to make a little girl levitate. “That is the closest I came to doing a Potter-like trick.” He also admits that he allows his friends to believe he can do a lot more when they compare him with Potter. “When they ask me to prove it, I simply say there is a time and place to perform magic. They haven’t found me out as yet,” he chuckles.
Given a chance to trade some of Harry’s powers or battle Voldemort, all three magicians say they would not hesitate to take on the challenge. But for now they are happy to watch awestruck faces every time they pull a bird out of a hat.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince releases in theatres on 16 July.