When Denver-based Manick Sorcar's company LaserLight Magic was last month named for the International Laser Display Association's 2007 Artistic Award, the industry's equivalent of the Oscars, the Kolkata-born engineer-cum-artist turned nostalgic.
The filmmaker, author and lighting designer talked about his father, legendary Indian magician P C Sorcar Jr, and how he had encouraged Manick, then a child, to paint the backdrops for some of his stage shows, and later to experiment with the lighting for some of his more spectacular stage effects.
Sorcar, who confined himself to the artistic and scientific aspects of his father's work, was never tempted to step into the spotlight in the wake of his father. "I remember how my dad would scold me because I was spending more time in art than studying for school. My mother [Jayashree Sorcar] would come to my rescue, reminding him it runs in the family. But eventually, it was my father who inspired me and ignited my simultaneous interest in science and art which shaped my profession," Manick Sorcar told rediff India Abroad."I must admit it was my father's encouragement, and the hands-on experience backstage, that have contributed to what I am today -- sharing my life with art and science side by side," Sorcar, who has done the lighting design for Denver International Airport, for sports centres in Japan, the Colorado Convention Centre and palaces for various Saudi princes, said.
An international panel of judges unanimously selected Sorcar's entry Reflection for the top honour, from among 100 entries representing 21 countries, in the Best Laser Photography category. The trophy will be handed over September 10, at the 2008 ILDA conference and award ceremony on board the Carnival Imagination, during a cruise of the eastern Caribbean September 8-13.
Sorcar had in 2005 won for Enlightenment of Buddha; in 2004, his Dancing with My Soul was a finalist for the Artistic Award for best use of laser on stage with live action. Reflection is a scene from Sorcar's forthcoming stage production, and his first entry in the laser photography category.
"It indeed is a great feeling, more so, because they (awards) were in two different categories with two different types of challenges," Sorcar. "The first award was for the best use of laser on stage in my Enlightenment of Buddha, which was an extravaganza of dance-drama-magic in combination with life-size laser animation. I used the laser to do a wide variety of effects interacting with actors on stage, including a scene where the ghosts came and lit the entire forest into an inferno. In Reflection, a fawn sees her own reflection in water, giving an impression of 3D effect."
Lasers are focused light beams powerful enough to cut through steel; on stage, Sorcar says, he cuts the intensity down to safe levels, and use light as a brush to paint scenes. "I am glad the international panel of judges appreciated how this cutting edge technology was used to produce a new type of art. It indeed is very heartwarming," Sorcar said.
Sorcar is now looking ahead at cutting edge projects, including the first-ever exhibition of his laser-art September in Arvada, Colorado. He says at the exhibit, visitors will actually be able to walk into his laser-driven projections, and to interact with them.
The second project is Shakuntala's Journey, a dance-drama-magic fusion in combination with life-size laser animation and visual effects to tell, from Kalidasa's classic play, that portion of the story dealing with Shakuntala's preparation to journey from the hermitage of foster father Sage Kanva, through the forest to the kingdom of her husband, King Dushyanta.
It is no accident that his works are based on Indian cultural themes -- he began animation in the early eighties mainly to tempt his US-born daughters to explore Indian culture. In the event, he began getting noticed, honoured with various international awards, and being repeatedly featured on PBS and other channels besides becoming a staple at elementary schools as a cultural bridge between East and West. Having thus, almost by accident, stumbled on a mission, Sorcar says he hopes to continue that effort at bridge building, by introducing the West to Indian culture through innovative techniques.
Given his pedigree -- grandfather Protul Chandra Sorcar, father Prodip Chandra Sorcar, sisters Maneka, Moubani and Mumtaz and brother Prodip Chandra Junior are all magicians -- it is inevitable that Manick Sorcar gets asked why he never picked up the wand.
The electrical engineering graduate from Benares Hindu University, who came to the US to do his masters from the University of Washington, laughs. "I am a magician, but with a difference," he says. "A magician is only an actor who is playing the role of a magician, and all his props and tricks are nothing but the application of science mixed with psychology.
"I fell in love with the miracles that could be created with the pure mixing of art with science -- art and lighting -- more than showing the magic trick itself, and all my work till today is based on that philosophy."
Sorcar recalls his father constantly telling him and his siblings, 'Anything extraordinary is magic'. "My award-winning shows are a step in that direction; this is my brand of magic," he says. "Creating miracles is my birthright; who says it has to be done by traditional magic?"
He has never felt the need to pick any one of the numerous fields he is involved in; when asked, he points out that by day he is the full time president of Sorcar Engineering, doing engineering and lighting design abiding all applicable codes, and by night he is an artist, animator, laserist, setting his mind free to do anything he wants.
"It is like being Dr Jekyll by day and Mr Hyde by night, except one difference: I need Mr Hyde to get me going as Dr Jekyll in the morning. Art charges my batteries. Through my laser shows, I have found a medium where I can rest my science and art together, and dream of taking it places where no one has gone before," Sorcar says.
"Confidentially, having come from a magician's family, I get a greater kick when I see magicians come to see my shows."