Hogwarts, Hyderabad

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As in 2021

Sudipta Sengupta, February 21, 2021: The Times of India

Hyderabad’s Hogwarts: India’s only magic school lets its spell linger

HYDERABAD: Set to open doors to a fresh batch this month is Hyderabad’s own Hogwarts, albeit without the bells and whistles of the fictional school of wizardry. Soon, 20 students will walk into a crammed corner room at the Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University here, and leave, 120 days later, with a diploma in magic – the only such course offered across India.

Started in 2014, this short course, complete with a syllabus, semester exams (theory and practical), and a stamped university certificate at the end of it, has found takers both within and outside Telangana.

“After learning about it, governments of Rajasthan, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh too have expressed interest in starting similar courses. Hopefully they will begin soon,” said Samala Venu, a popular illusionist who initiated the launch of the course. His objective: to make magic a serious profession that’s not just seen as a ploy by fake performers to cheat people. “Apart from Telangana, we have had students from these states too who come here to study magic,” he added.

At present, most lessons in magic are limited to online courses or workshops, typically spread over 7 to 10 days. Internationally too, it is often part of a larger stream of study. “It (magic) is part of a cultural studies course taught in a few places,” said author John Zubrzycki, who’s book, Jadoowallahs, Jugglers and Jinns, was released in 2018.

But can magic be taught in a classroom? “The performing art involves multiple technicalities and a course like this helps one understand those nuances – like what do you do if a trick misfires on stage,” said Ram Akhil, one of the first to take the course. “For someone like me who came from an MSc (in forensic science) background, it opened my eyes to a wide range of magic tricks and magicians that I didn’t know about,” added the ‘conjuring artist’ with over 1,500 shows – in India and abroad – under his belt. His most popular trick: producing currency notes on stage.

That the certificate allows one to take up professional gigs, which are reasonably well-paying – many make up to Rs 1 lakh or more (average is Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000) a month – adds to the charm.

“Along with the money, a profession like this also helps one stand out in a crowd,” said 37-year-old, Rajkumar Darna, eyeing a seat in the next batch. A MCom degree holder, with a comfortable job in the private sector, Darna says he has always, secretly, nursed the desire to don the magician’s hat.

A chat with aspirants waiting in line for their selection interview revealed many have post-graduate degrees (and even jobs) that they are willing to put on hold, to pursue a career in magic.

“It (magic) is a wonderful second profession and to many the only profession. The avenues to perform and entertain are many, be it private parties, public functions, or at five-star brunches. While this has hit pause like most else with Covid, hopefully soon life will be able to continue and magicians will be able to do what they do best — make magic,” said Nakul Shenoy a renowned Indian mentalist based in Bengaluru.

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