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Indian magician performs Houdini-like escape

A famous Indian magician, Gopinath Muthucad, enthralled thousands of people with a spectacular, death-defying Houdini-style escape act at the Al Ain festival in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday night.

The 32-year-old illusionist from Kerala, India, became in 1995 the first magician in the world to perform such an escape act after the great Harry Houdini's feat way back in 1904.

Last night's performance at Al Ain, an oasis town in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, was Muthucad's first attempt to repeat the trick.

Thousands thronged the specially-prepared site where the trick was to be performed and emergency services were on stand-by.

In front of the crowd, which was kept a safe distance away, Muthucad was handcuffed, chained, and hung upside down from a crane.

The crane lowered him into a pile of hay, which was then doused in petrol and set alight.

As the spectators watched with bated breath, Muthucad emerged unshackled from the burning pyre in less than 60 seconds. The crowds broke into rapturous applause and many fans carried the magician shoulder-high around the arena.

A triumphant Muthucad said this performance was one of his finest hours.

''Naturally, I was nervous, but I knew all along that I could do it'', he said.

Muthucad is one of the main attractions at the festival, an annual event held at the 'Fun City' entertainment park in Al Ain to coincide with Id-ul-Fitr celebrations.

As in previous years, the organisers have invited performers from around the world to entertain the thousands of people who turn up for the festival each day.

Other attractions at the festival this year include dance, music, rides, games, comic skits, a toy circus, mimicry, and a vintage car show.

Muthucad and his 14-member troupe have been mesmerising crowds since the festival began last week and they will perform on all days till February 21. The fire escape act was, however, a one-off event.

After performing the trick in February 1995 at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, the magician had decided not to attempt it again.

''I vowed that, like my hero Houdini, once was enough and I would never repeat the act. But the crowds in Al Ain have been tremendous and many people asked me to perform the stunt here,'' he said, explaining his decision to attempt the act in the UAE.

Muthucad has many other tricks to entertain the crowds at Al Ain during his daily two-and-a-half hour show.

''Of the 100-odd tricks, three or four are really dangerous,'' he said, making special mention of the 'Water Torture Escape Act'.

This was Muthucad's first performance in the UAE, though he has had shows in other gulf states like Oman and Bahrain before.

Earlier report


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