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Indian Houdini feared drowned as stunt goes wrong

AFP|
Magic gone wrong
1/6

Magic gone wrong

A 41-year-old magician was feared drowned in the Hooghly on Sunday in front of a crowd of horrified onlookers while trying to perform an underwater escape act, a version of which he had performed six years ago, and popularised by Harry Houdini almost 100 years back.

AFP
Last dive
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Last dive

Chanchal Lahiri, known by his stage name "Jadugar Mandrake" (Wizard Mandrake), was lowered by winch into the river in Kolkata on Sunday in a yellow and red costume.

But Lahiri, his legs and his arms tightly bound, failed to emerge from the water, to the horror of onlookers including his family and team members.

AFP
Tight chance
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Tight chance

Rescue workers have been scouring the fast-flowing murky waters since Sunday but he was yet to be found, Syed Waquar Raza from the river traffic police said.

"We fear he drowned in the river," he said.

AFP
What was the magic supposed to be
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What was the magic supposed to be

Lahiri told beforehand that he had successfully pulled off a similar stunt 21 years ago at the same venue in the eastern city.

"I was inside a bullet proof glass box tied with chain and locks and dropped down from Howrah bridge. Then I came out within 29 seconds."

He admitted it would be tough to free himself this time.

"If I can open it up then it will be magic, but if I can't it will be tragic," he said.

He also said he was undertaking the death-defying stunt to "revive interest in magic".

BCCL
Earlier misadventures
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Earlier misadventures

Lahiri was a magician from Sonarpur suburb in Kolkata who has claimed he had performed over 2,500 shows worldwide.

When Lahiri tried another stunt at the river in 2013, he was assaulted by onlookers who saw him escape from a locked cage via a door that was clearly visible. He was beaten and punched and his long flowing golden-brown wig was pulled off by the crowd.

Almost a decade earlier, he declared he would walk on the river waters but had to beat a hasty retreat when the act went wrong.

BCCL
Famous escape artists
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Famous escape artists

Harry Houdini was a Hungarian-born American stuntman who became a sensation in the early 20th century with daredevil feats including escaping from a crate lowered into the East River in New York in 1912.

Besides famous magicians in Kolkata itself, like PC Sircar Junior, who performed the same act or some variation of it, Gopinath Muthukad is known as the 'Indian Houdini' of the 'water torture escape act' and the 'Bhishma Puthamaha escape act'.

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