A life of il­lu­sions

Ira­nian ma­gi­cian Mahdi Mou­dini is rel­ish­ing his time here as a per­form­ing artist.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - People - By GRACE CHEN star2@thes­tar.com.my Mahdi and wife Goh.

IRA­NIAN ma­gi­cian and il­lu­sion­ist, Mahdi Mou­dini, has made Malaysia his home for the past 20 years. In this time, he beat vi­o­lin­ist Den­nis Lau in a push up chal­lenge, per­formed for lo­cal VIPS and roy­alty, and ap­peared for in­ter­views on ra­dio, tele­vi­sion and print. And yes, he also made it into Datuk Kee Hua Chee’s high so­ci­ety lifestyle blog.

Though Mahdi’s bag of tricks has in­cluded turn­ing a lion dance troupe into a horse, and mak­ing doves fly out of a burn­ing book, one trick which has the au­di­ence eat­ing out of his hand is trans­form­ing real ring­git notes into green­backs.

“This is one trick that can make peo­ple smile. I mean re­ally smile,” said Mahdi.

In ret­ro­spect, it may be the trick Mahdi some­times wishes he left out from his reper­toire due to the ex­change rate, es­pe­cially when the au­di­ence gets cheeky by ask­ing for dif­fer­ent de­nom­i­na­tions, like Bri­tish pounds and eu­ros.

But Mahdi comes from the school of thought that be­lieves the cus­tomer is king. So, he usu­ally obliges, though it means reg­u­lar trips to the money changer.

On whether he has ever wor­ried about be­ing on the los­ing end, Mahdi’s pro­fes­sional an­swer as a ma­gi­cian is to pro­vide a pol­ished re­sponse about “magic at work”. In re­al­ity, how­ever, his fans are known to be sport­ing enough to of­fer as much as RM100, just so they can bask in the won­der­ment of the trans­for­ma­tion it­self.

“But I work best in the RM1 to US$1 cat­e­gory be­cause it’s af­ford­able enough for me to give to ev­ery­body,” he said in stitches.

As head of Mahdi Entertainment, the Ira­nian ex­pat’s work visa comes un­der his Malaysian wife, Michelle Goh, who is also his as­sis­tant and busi­ness part­ner. He has two other full-time as­sis­tants, too, one of whom has been with him for 20 years, who takes charge of train­ing the an­i­mals in his acts. The other is a Thai, spe­cial­is­ing in il­lu­sion work, py­rotech­nics and elec­tric cir­cuits.

“My Thai as­sis­tant is sched­uled to ar­rive and im­pro­vise a smoke ma­chine, which will be used in my new act. I am go­ing to use it to make smoke clouds to take the shape of an ob­ject be­fore it ap­pears on stage,” said Mahdi, hint­ing at what’s in store for his new reper­toire.

At present, Ma­cau, China, has be­come the troupe’s lat­est stomp­ing ground. Liken­ing the South­ern China city to Las Ve­gas for its casi­nos and lux­ury ho­tels, Mahdi is cer­tain he could suc­ceed at achiev­ing pro­fes­sional star­dom there, as well.

Mahdi’s strat­egy of con­quer­ing the Ma­cau magic and il­lu­sion trade is to present a mod­ern reper­toire equiv­a­lent to what’s of­fered by big names from the western hemi­sphere, but at a more at­trac­tive price point.

“I have a de­tailed ac­count of the acts done for each venue, so, the au­di­ence does not have to see the same thing. In my book, if some­one sees the same rou­tine more than three times, the el­e­ment of sur­prise is lost,” said Mahdi.

De­scrib­ing life as a trav­el­ling en­ter­tainer, Mahdi re­vealed that the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate means be­ing sub­jected to triple checks at im­mi­gra­tion points, due to the per­cep­tion that those from his re­gion have ter­ror­ist links.

How­ever, for Mahdi, the big­gest in­con­ve­nience is be­ing barred from bring­ing in com­mon but es­sen­tial show items like con­fetti and bat­ter­ies into the coun­tries of his per­for­mance. To cir­cum­vent this nig­gle, he as­signs his Thai as­sis­tant to hand-carry the items through check­points. Al­most un­fairly, his Thai as­sis­tant is able to breeze through cus­toms with­out ques­tion or in­ci­dent.

“I want to make it known that I am not into pol­i­tics. My fo­cus is only on magic,” he in­sisted.

Back home, Mahdi is pres­i­dent of the Malaysian chap­ter of the In­ter­na­tional Ma­gi­cians So­ci­ety.

It is not a reg­is­tered or­gan­i­sa­tion, but Mahdi said he has kept things mov­ing for its 210 mem­bers. Life­time mem­ber­ship fee is US$260 (RM1,100), with par­tic­i­pants re­ceiv­ing a six vol­ume DVD pack of magic trick tu­to­ri­als.

Mahdi said the so­ci­ety is also where young ma­gi­cians can net­work with ex­pe­ri­enced in­dus­try play­ers to land gigs. One of the aid schemes of­fered by the so­ci­ety sees loans for magic props handed out to young, up­com­ing ma­gi­cians who are not able to af­ford their own. The ar­range­ment sees re­pay­ments within a two-year pe­riod for bor­row­ers. Mem­bers also en­joy dis­counts of up to 30% for pur­chases in af­fil­i­ated magic trick shops.

“One thing I have dis­cov­ered is young ma­gi­cians are of­ten cheated, as in, the tricks they pur­chase some­times don’t work. This can be an ex­pen­sive waste be­cause a trick pen, for ex­am­ple, can some­times cost as much as US$1,000 (RM4,234). Through our so­ci­ety, our mem­bers are able to con­nect with rep­utable sup­pli­ers,” he said.

For per­sonal ful­fil­ment, Mahdi has taken to men­tor­ing those with an in­ter­est in the art. Some of his first pupils have been from Ti-Ratana Wel­fare So­ci­ety, as the home is just be­hind his for­mer res­i­dence in Ta­man Desa, Kuala Lumpur.

One pupil from this home, Suresh Subra­ma­niam, now 27, who re­ceived free lessons on close up magic three times a week, two hours per ses­sion, for a month and a half from Mahdi, ended up mak­ing a name for him­self as a mask changer.

For the fu­ture, Mahdi is look­ing for a space and spon­sors to start a the­atre de­voted to magic arts and il­lu­sion, of­fer­ing non-stop per­for­mances 365 days a year. He is look­ing at the Kuala Lumpur In­ter­na­tional Air­port for his tar­get clien­tele.

“There are 20,000 land­ings a day in KLIA. If we can just tap 2% of this mar­ket, the the­atre will be a suc­cess,” said Mahdi, who calls this his Malaysian dream.

Mahdi makes a flut­ter of um­brel­las ap­pear out of thin air. — Pho­tos: SA­MUEL ONG/The Star

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.