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Magic, but borrowed
- Sorcar Jr pins hope on conjuror Modi

Barasat, May 9: “The worst thing on earth is to write somebody a letter saying ‘I love you’,” the man across the desk in a brown collarless T-shirt and disruptive-pattern trousers says in one of his many assertions.

“Why must it have to be written? Must love also pass a spellcheck? Shouldn’t it just be felt?”

P.C. Sorcar Jr, globe-trotting magician, inheritor, conjuror, illusionist, psychologist, father, husband and wannabe-politician is also a pop-philosopher. Trickster, he says, he is not.

Minus the regalia he adorns while on stage — or, indeed, while going to file his nomination papers as the BJP candidate from Barasat — Sorcar looks hatke, almost aberrant. Unless, of course, you are sitting across the table from him by when you notice his kohl-lined eyes behind large gold-rimmed glasses and the thin, upturned moustache, dyed jet-black like the neatly back-brushed hair.

Back from a rally in which Narendra Modi was paisa-wasool (worth every penny) for the crowd, the magician and BJP’s Barasat candidate is chilling in a rented ground-floor flat in Madhyamgram, his camp here, a little more than an hour’s drive from Indrajal, his house in south Calcutta’s Jamir Lane.

Twenty minutes back, he was in a distinctive long sherwani — not the full ensemble he wears under the lights. It is early in the evening, a time when most candidates are at street-corner meetings but it has been a long day today for Sorcar and he is getting a little more easy with the campaign.

The crowd’s response at Modi’s meeting — he believes there were 40,000 in the field (25-28,000 more likely) — has made him a little more comfortable.

“It wasn’t a premonition but I think it was in the script,” he says. He believes he is watching his voters warming up to the BJP. “We will be living happily in instalments,” he asserts.

Earlier in the morning, he had gone for a roadshow. A Muslim man on a two-wheeler, he says, turned the other way when he saw the BJP squad on the road. But the woman on the pillion in a burqa with only her eyes and eyebrows showing, says Sorcar, gave a little nod to him. He has taken that as an encouraging sign.

The BJP’s presence in Bengal began as a susurration, a little rustle among voters, when the electioneering began. In the two months since then, the Modi impact is barrelling through a section of voters.

In four-cornered contests that are a unique feature of the elections in Bengal this time, veteran campaigners of the Left, Congress and Trinamul too are wondering what it will leave in its wake. The BJP itself is fancying its chances in five of 42 seats in the state — Darjeeling, Asansol, Dum Dum, Serampore and Barasat. And Modi’s choice to address a rally in Sorcar’s constituency in the last leg of the Prime Minister-aspirant’s tours of Bengal is pushing the limits of the magician’s perma-smile.

Yet, it is surprising that one of the country’s most successful celebrities should decide to take the plunge into electoral politics. By his own admission he has lived a luxurious life.

“I have had an elephant and a lion for pets,” he says, “and I can live in the Waldorf Astoria”.

“But the rhythm has broken. I cannot enjoy unless I see others being happy. I like to move ahead emotionally. P.C Sorcar is surviving. Why? Because people like to escape from reality. Whatever is on stage, in the shows that I put up, I pretend to be a magician, I play the role of a magician — to the public, it is as if everything is by magic — but it is all done by science, by logic, through practice, practice and practice. Unlike the other arts — like cinematography — I can’t afford to make a mistake or else it (my shows) will become a comedy or a tragedy,” he says.

Sorcar expects the tools of his trade, the perceptions they allow him, would come in handy in feeling for his electorate. The name Indrajal for his troupe is a derivative of the sanskrit indriya (the senses).

In showing his art, he uses the psychoanalytical methods to “scan the insides” of his audiences’ minds. One of these is S.E.N — Spectators’ Expectation Norm. He categorises his “witnesses” broadly into two: the enlightened and the innocent. Each of these two may be hyphenated with five other types:

Show-minded
Art-minded
Trick-minded
Innocent
Indifferent

So then his audiences may comprise collectives of, for example, the “show-minded but enlightened” or the “trick-minded but innocent”.

Once he is elected a member of Parliament — “an extension of the stage”, according to him — he will record his voters’ grievances and he is distributing his contact details now on visiting cards wherever he goes so that they may get in touch with him. He is not in politics to do vanish from the voters, he says.

But his detractors will have a tough time. Among them Mamata Banerjee. Sorcar fishes out a “surrender slip” from his wallet, an anticipatory bail certificate, in the event police come to arrest him for criticising the Bengal chief minister and once saying that she may get her mind examined by him because he is a trained psychologist.

Amare keu bhoy dekhaite parbona (nobody can strike fear in me),” he has told the crowd earlier in the afternoon, speaking before Modi’s arrival. “Aamre dhorte ailey aami vanish hoya zamu, aami magician,” (if the cops come to catch me, I will vanish — I can do it I am a magician”.

He has chosen to deliberately speak in a dialect of Bengali that is common among those who are refugees from Bangladesh. He tells the crowd that he too is from a refugee family. This, he says, to emphasise that Modi is making a distinction between “refugees” from Bangladesh and “infiltrators”.

In Barasat, as in constituencies along the border with Bangladesh, this is an emotive issue. The subtext of the refugee-versus-infiltrator discourse is that refugees are Hindu and infiltrators are Muslim. “Infiltrators” are also blamed for the spurt in crime in Barasat.

Sorcar says he is opposed to the idea of segregating people. “I am opposed, that is why, to the idea of an East Bengal Club and a Mohammedan Sporting Club — that is divisive.”

Narendra Modi and the BJP are not divisive, he asserts.

“To say the BJP is communal or anti-Muslim is misleading. M.J. Akbar (founder-editor of The Telegraph, and a Muslim) has recently joined the party. They (critics) don’t call the BJP anti-Christian. If it is sinful to promote Hinduism, then you are fundamentally wrong. Because Hinduism is not a religion, it is a way of life. The actual Hindustan is in Pakistan. The word “Hindu’ is not a religion, it is a geographical denomination (derived from the river Indus),” he says.

Sorcar sees himself as the proud inheritor and messenger of “Hindu-magicians” — the originators of “the Great Indian Rope Trick”, among others — that his father exemplified and that is distinct from the school of magic of the Hungarian-American Harry Houdini and the legendary wizard Merlin.

But his magic will not solve the issues that bother his voters. For “the weaver of the Baluchari sari is the real magician”.

The Trinamul Congress’ sitting MP and Mamata’s confidante, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, won by a margin of more than 1.24 lakh votes in alliance with the Congress in 2009 from Barasat. In the Assembly segments of the constituency, Trinamul maintained a lead of 1.88 lakh votes in 2011.

How may P.C. Sorcar Jr deal with loss?

“I am not a frustrated man. I may be a sad man. I don’t see a glass as half-full or half-empty. I see 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness in a full day. If I am thirsty, I will drink the water. If my wife is thirsty, I will share it with her,” he says.

Barasat votes on May 12