So, I’m at Café Nero in the Brittox of Devizes when the young lad I’m sitting with presses my shoulder as if there was a button on it, and two red balls dispense from my upper arm; this isn’t going to be an ordinary afternoon tea.
I’m chatting to Raj Bhanot, aka the Magic Word Magician. The best part of writing Devizine is encountering local talented people, usually they’re musicians, so for a change I was keen to meet this aspiring street magician.
We spoke of TV magicians from my youth, the obvious Paul Daniels, of whom Raj acclaimed as “absolute legend.” Comparing Paul to the American showman David Copperfield, the variance being while Daniels had the gab, the witticisms and charisma, you never joked with Copperfield; it was serious magic, if not a little outdated nowadays.
“Dynamo must be an easy comparison to make with you,” I asked Raj, “where do you differ?” Maybe all those Paul Daniels magic tricks you could buy in the eighties did paid off, I guessed his answer, or perhaps it’s simple to see the difference between them upon watching his promotional videos.
While Dynamo adopts David Blaine’s style of extending Copperfield’s sombre and mysterious bravura, Raj is keen to add humour and charisma to street magic, more akin to Daniels. This makes this captivating young magician far more bookable for corporate events, weddings and other functions, which is where Raj obtains most of his work. “I wouldn’t book Dynamo,” I told him, for whether it’s clever editing, or just his persona, it’s kind of weird how he just wanders away like that, whereas you’d immediately welcome Raj at your function.
Blogging on his website, Raj makes convincing argument why a “close-up magician,” makes a great addition for a corporate event; “team retreats are all about building trust. That conviction takes work to build up, but once it’s in place it becomes an invaluable asset to your company. Bringing in a skilled close-up magician for corporate retreats reinforces that trust exercise. When faced with some dizzying sleight of hand, every non-magician is on equal footing—unlike the boardroom where the boss is the boss. In other words, having the opportunity to watch your manager get bamboozled outside a business setting is perfect for breaking down status barriers.”
I think weddings speak for themselves, my hour spent with Raj was absolutely entertaining, his magic sublimely executed with gusto and fun.
The couple of foam balls are now on the table, he instructs me to pick one and squeeze it my hand. He copies me with the other ball, but upon opening his hand the ball has disappeared and when I open mine, I’ve both the balls; then we have a little joke about checking my balls, cheeky so-and-so, I know I’m getting no younger!
“Is it all sleight of hand?” I ask him, and he explains it is mostly; there’s a finite amount of systems which can be applied to many tricks, but that’s all his revealing.
“Does it get annoying when people ask the cliché question?” I inquire. He nodded, “if people ask me how it’s done, I tell them ‘easily!” He enlightened how he will repeat the trick and slow it down, but still confuse the person.
Enthusiastic about street magic, Raj would consider, and has done shows, often using a large screen to show the close-up nature of his tricks. He proudly told me of his first experiences of performing, at the talent show at Devizes School, and we moved onto how his father and grandad would play-off card tricks with each other, and a fascinated young Raj picked up the knack and wished to make a professional career from it.
Indeed, it has, at a young age he’s being booked through several agents and the website is gaining attention from London to Bristol, even trekking North to cities like Hull. “I don’t get so much work locally though,” he stated, perhaps Devizes could wake up to the talented youngsters we have here, and we passed mention of mutual friend, the juggling unicyclist Arthur Plumb, as a for instance.
In fact, the punters of Café Nero were surprised when the approachable magician sauntered up to them with a pack of cards in hand. The whole coffee shop applauded this random performance, the like normally refined to city pubs, and a young lad bravely approached our table to ask if he could see a trick, Raj only too happy to oblige.
After the interview I popped to Icelands to pick up some tucker for tonight, where the lady in front of me groaned, “nothing ever happens in Devizes,” and the man on the till agreed. Hold on a cotton-picking minute I thought, I’ve just be bedazzled by some quality magic a few doors down; we really need to show youths like Raj, Arthur and all the brilliant musicians I meet our esteem and acknowledgment.
For at just a year ago, Raj passed the ultimate magician’s exam, and performing before the crème-de-la-crème of illusionists, he’s now proudly a member of the Magic Circle. So, although Raj couldn’t magic a chocolate brownie from the counter to our table, I was mightily impressed and honoured to meet him!
Please, check out the dodgy videos we made, or better try the more professional shoot I’ve posted, like his Facebook page, check out his website and, well, you’d be crazy not to book him for your event or function.