Saturday, November 27

It was my first trip to Kolkata when I committed to making magic my everything: Drummond Money Coutts

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Hosla. Pyar. Vishwas. These are the three words tattooed like a crescent on British magician Drummond Money-Coutts’s left ear. “Mera atma Bharatiya hai. I always say I was born in the wrong continent. This time, I have been in India for ‘panch mahiney’,” said Drummond, whose high-profile audience includes Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, top industrialists and the Royal family in the UK, among others. One of the most eminent magicians in the world, he spoke to CT about his love for India, his commitment to magic, the nerve-wrecking experience of filming an OTT show and more. Excerpts:
You have been in India for a while this time…

Yes, I came in March. Remember that little window when everything was fine? We were having weddings and cricket matches (laughs). I landed here because London was still under a lockdown. I was so happy. After my quarantine period got over, I thought I was in the best place in the world. And then it went wild. When Mumbai went into lockdown, my girlfriend and I left for Goa. Then we ended up in Himachal just to get away from everything.
Tell us about your experience in India.

I landed in India for the first time when I was 18. I think it was 2005. I used to work at a leading investment banking firm in London back then. But after working there for six months, I realised I didn’t belong to that world at all. So I fled. I got on a plane and took off for Delhi. And when I landed in Delhi, it almost felt like how people describe falling in love with a man or woman. Stepping into the chaos just filled my soul. Even today, I can sit on the streets anywhere in India and just enjoy seeing the stories unfold. But that was the beginning of the love story. I have been back dozens of times.

What about Kolkata? Have you come here before?

On that first trip, a friend was accompanying me. We went to Rajasthan and Goa. After he left, I came here to attend a magic convention in Kolkata. I got to meet about 20 local magicians there. They showed their magic and I showed mine – very different styles, methods and techniques. I even gave a brief lecture on what magic means to me. It was that trip when I committed to making magic my everything. I never really dared to dream that magic could be a reality until that very moment.

India has a legacy of magic that is very different from the concept of magic in the west. Here, it is often seen as an integral part of ancient mystical philosophy. In the west, magic is often about science and illusions. Did you get to experience the magical charm in India?
Magic is like love. How you define it or see it depends upon you. It is open to so many interpretations. I do think magic is different in India but magic has so many different interpretations in the UK too. In the west, the general understanding of magic is different. When you ask someone what magic is, they might point to Las Vegas or somewhere similar. I think in India and also some parts of the far East, Africa, South America and Middle East, magic still runs deeper – in the mystical parts of human minds. It is not just about tricks from a jadugar. Like everywhere else, India also has good, bad and black magic. But this place also has a solid history of jadugars. No matter where you go in India, people join in to celebrate magic. In many other places, magic is seen with fear. Common people there are hesitant to experience it.

How do you define the Indian audience? Are they easy to impress or do they act like smugs?

I think there is a great appetite for magic. People tend to get involved. The British are more reserved. You even run into people who want to challenge your magic. That is rare and I now know how to win the moment.

How did your journey in the world of magic start? You have a strong family legacy of business and finance. Were you not asked to pursue that?

There were certainly a few conversations. More than anything, there were concerns regarding the unpredictability of the profession. When I was 18, my father asked me, ‘What is Plan A?’ I said, ‘Plan A is magic’. He then asked, ‘What is Plan B?’ I replied, ‘Plan B is to make Plan A work’ (laughs).

In the new normal, would you encourage an aspiring magician to pursue this as a career option?

When I left university, the world went into a credit crunch and times were very tough. I feel tough times keep coming and going. If there is a question in their head, then magic is not for them. Like all professions, magic too has its own challenges. For instance, there were no shows during the pandemic. But then we magicians are moving into a more stable world. People around the world are doing magic tricks, recording it on their phone and uploading it on social media. And they are making money and earning success.

The OTT show that you did recently seemed to be pretty dangerous. Realistically speaking, how strong was the safety net for you?

The truth is, we had a lot of problems on the show. We had a safety crew that was probably not qualified to handle a show like this. Out of the eight stunts I did, three went wrong. I went to paramedics thrice. Two of the stunts could have gone horribly wrong. We had a person in a position where he should not have been in. I was very unfortunate to be in that position, but I feel blessed that it did not get worse. The two fire stunts we did — one filmed in Udaipur and one in Los Angeles — saw big accidents. The rehearsal days were very tight. Most of the time those are technical rehearsals — camera angles etc. It was ironic that we were doing the show as a tribute to these incredible people who gave their lives in pursuit of magic and there we were in a situation where things went very close to becoming fatal. There were a lot of lessons to learn. People dropped the ball, pulled the wrong lever at the wrong time. The human error part was huge.

Big, grand stunts or private shows – which one do you enjoy the most?

My favourite things in the world are very private – 12-15 people in the audience. We can do larger stuff, but my favourite thing is to go to a family event at someone’s home with a handful of people around. That is where you find real love and connection, and not in big business or corporate events. Sometimes these small shows are very private with incredible people around. I walk into a room and see Indian people that I recognise as a foreigner. Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan, Gauri Khan, Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone – being able to be a bit more informal and up close with such names is an incredible joy.

There is a photograph of you with Shah Rukh Khan…It was in Antilia during a private show for Mukesh Ambani and his family. Shah Rukh just turned up and in a quick moment, I got a photograph with him (laughs). I’ve adored Bollywood for years now, so for me, that was a very special moment.

Source: Times of India

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