Tags: Culture, funny things
There is a place in India where magic never died. At dusk, Christmas lights ignite its buildings like starlight, and music begins a slow rhythm into the festival of towering puppets and tricks from magicians passed down through generations.
India’s last magician slum in the Kathputli Colony, outside West Delhi, is a final visage of an age of wonder and magic. Yet soon it will all be gone. The land was sold to developers, and the colony will be bulldozed for a mall. Its colorful occupants will be moved to low-income high-rises.
Filmmakers Jim Goldblum and Adam Weber, and Emmy-award winning photographer Joshua Cogan, are recording the final days of the community in their upcoming documentary, “Tomorrow We Disappear.”
“You just can’t believe what these people can do,” Goldblum said.
The main character they follow is a magician named Ishamuddin Khan—one of the more famous performers in the colony. He is one of the few people in the world who can perform the Indian rope trick—making a limp rope rise from a basket and suspend itself 20 feet in the air—which he has performed around the world, including at a show for Pen & Teller at the Taj Mahal.
Khan had wandered into the jungle when he was young, determined to make it on his own. In the jungle, a lot of interesting things happened, “including learning magic from some local magicians there, which he brought back,” Goldblum said.
The other artists are no less impressive. A puppeteer they met makes 15-string puppets. Goldblum notes this requires “five strings on each hand, the elbows, shoulders, and one behind the neck.”
“He won the Indian Academy Award for traditional arts. He’s a phenomenal puppeteer,” Goldblum said.
A magician tradition
For hundreds of years, traveling artists in India united the country under a common culture. They were the storytellers and musicians who kept the country on the same page. “The idea of a unified India is attributed a lot to these folk artists,” says Goldblum.