A New Bag of Tricks: How Magicians Improve Their Online Game

Can someone in Villivakkam read your mind from Vishakapatnam? Meet the magicians now entertaining the world from their living rooms

Can someone in Villivakkam read your mind from Vishakapatnam? Meet the magicians now entertaining the world from their living rooms

It’s a Saturday night, and Arun the mentalist – or ATM, as he calls himself – has his eyes glued to the camera. He’s set to kick off one of his most popular tricks with the over-50 audience who showed up for his Zoom live virtual show.

He writes on a piece of paper and places it in a bowl for everyone to see. He then asks for volunteers from the audience, and three – from different parts of the world, unrelated to each other – answer three questions: favorite vacation destination, what they would eat there, and the approximate cost of that dinner. .

A few minutes later, Arun opens this piece of paper and shows the world that he had already predicted these answers: USA, curdled rice and $99, plus tax.

The audience reactivates and applauds in disbelief. From his modest residence in Villivakkam in Chennai, Arun Loganathan smiles broadly as he bows in recognition.

Arun the mentalist

Arun the mentalist

For Arun and many of his peers in the mind magick industry, the world has opened up online to witness their magick happening in their living rooms.

When the pandemic and lockdown hit, most of the corporate world adjusted to a rigorous work-from-home routine. But the transition hasn’t been so smooth for magicians and performers, who thrive on the energy and allure of the stage.

A new act

Delhi-based illusionist Karan Singh, who has been performing since 2008, took advantage of the lockdown to write a new show: a show that would include new tricks for online performances.

Karan Singh

Karan Sing

“Writing a show usually takes six to eight months but due to the increased frequency of performances during lockdown, I could do it in a few weeks,” he says. He showcased this and made magic videos in collaboration with comedians and influencers like Samay Raina, Tanmay Bhat and Bhuvan Bam over the past few months.

Karan believes the pandemic has opened up a world of possibilities for performers. “It’s a bit difficult for magicians because they need more space and props, but for mentalists who can read your mind and figure out your PIN or phone password, a corner from home is enough,” says Karan, who adds that he goes the extra mile to adapt to international performances – he recently performed at 3am IST for audiences in the US and UK.

Mumbai-based Naman Anand is a relatively new entrant to the magic space; he started his professional career with virtual shows earlier this year, after many years trying his hand at it as a hobby. “During virtual shows, each person feels like they have a coveted front-row seat,” Naman says.

Naman Anand

Naman Anand

Nikhil Raj has done something similar from Bengaluru; the illusionist has tried to incorporate elements of comedy into his online shows, which revolve around mentalism and conjuring. “In one of my first shows, an audience member pointed out that I was doing tricks using props from my desk. Ever since then, I’ve been telling the audience to keep something ready in their house; things like a pen, paper and a phone, and try to take a ride with that,” adds Nikhil, who has been busy for the past few months, with more than 35 virtual sessions.

Nikhil Raj

Nikhil Raj

Preparing such online broadcasts takes time, effort and money. Arun took a trip to Ritchie Street, Chennai’s well-known electronic center, to buy some lights, a microphone and a green screen. He converted part of his bedroom into a studio containing a two-camera setup. “My house is my stage now,” beams Arun, who also attempted a blindfolded number virtually.

The wow factor

With such virtual shows being the new norm, how do magicians plan their future performances?

Legendary magician David Copperfield answered this question, who talked about various challenges during a recent Facebook Live hosted by popular Chennai-based magician, SAC Vasanth. Vasanth, who has done numerous TV shows involving magic, might be popular for being “the man who predicted Garry Kasparov’s next move,” but the past few months without stage shows have been a challenge.

“The transition was difficult, he admits, even on a live stage, we are asked a hundred questions. On an online platform, we have to convince the public. Credibility is an important factor. David [Copperfield] stressed about choosing your kind of magic and improving presentation skills.

Vasanth seems to have cracked that; since March, he has done more than 30 virtual shows, most paid for. “We are keeping it limited to 25 tickets, priced at ₹2,000 each for a one-hour show. The advantage is that all family members can gather around the laptop and enjoy the show. For such events, he does tricks connecting the 25 people – they each think of a number that adds up to a big number, which Vasanth reveals he predicted on his Instagram page the day before!

He has also done special shows for companies in which he incorporates elements of their line of work. For Saint Gobain employees, Vasanth inserted a prediction inside a piece of glass, while for Nippon Paint staff, he worked out some special tricks using color concepts. “I miss the applause and interaction that occurs during stage shows, but we continue to entertain the audience. Magic is about making people happy. That is what matters.”

(With entries from

Brian L. Hartfield