A still from Sangam
A still from Sangam

The magicians and their world of magic once used to be a regular feature of the show-business, with people thronging to watch their live shows resulting in packed houses. The newspapers had advertisements announcing the arrival of famous magicians in the town and the tickets got sold in advance because of their huge fan following. It was the era of live shows as they were the only means of entertainment other than TV and cinema. Such was the popularity of magicians and their magic shows that they were given special time for their performance in a circus too, mostly targeting the kids sitting in the audience. On certain occasions, if not a magician, then the joker used to perform magic tricks in the circus to entertain the young viewers.

Taking you back in time, one of the topmost magicians of the country was Kantilal Vora, popularly known as K Lal, a true showman of his field ruling the stage, who had another showman as his fan — actor-director Raj Kapoor.

It is not a widely known fact that the two masters of their art had an association too, which was fondly remembered by K Lal in one of his interviews in the mid-90s. It was around the time Sangam was being made when Raj Kapoor called K Lal for help, or rather to train him for a particular sequence in the film.

Recalling the scene from Sangam, it is there around 35 minutes into the film, when Raj comes with a letter written by Radha [Vyjayanthimala] to Rajendra Kumar and asks him to read it. As Kumar begins reading, we see Raj magically leaning back and front to an angle of 45 degrees a couple of times (with no support of any kind) before falling intentionally. To be honest, I always believed that he performed the leaning act with the help of an invisible wire. But it was a misconception that was cleared when the master-magician revealed Raj performed the tough scene after a continuous training of eight-10 days for which he was specially invited by the showman.

Remembering the time spent together, Lal shared that the showman had made all the arrangements for his comfortable stay at his residence for 10 days, giving a VIP kind of treatment. Considering Lal was a Jain, Raj had also instructed not to prepare any non-vegetarian dish for anyone on the premises during his stay, respecting Lal’s personal beliefs.

As informed by the master magician, Raj felt nervous in the initial days of training with a fear of getting hurt, which he hesitatingly expressed saying that please think about my face, because if it gets hurt, the shooting schedule will be affected. To this Lal replied, “If you are a showman, then I am a showman too and very well aware of the value of an artiste’s face. So don’t worry as I will certainly take care of that.”

Their practice continued for more than a week before Raj performed the scene to perfection in front of the camera, getting his desired result. The impact of the particular scene was mesmerising as the audience felt amazed watching it in the theatres. The sequence got duly noticed, and it still gets remembered for that fabulous act by many to date.

The lesser-known, behind-the-scene story, yet again informs about the efforts put in by the maestros in their memorable creations and how seriously they prepare for even a three-minute sequence on screen with no compromise. That is in fact the reason such blessed creators get remembered as ‘The Showman’ of their respective fields.

(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of ‘Did You Know’ series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)

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