Heshan first heard the song Ashawari while at a friend’s house. “It hit me then that the melody and Samahan theme would make for a good magic trick,” he said.
He built the trick, videoed it and mailed it to a friend. Next morning Heshan hit the streets with a new magic trick up his sleeve, a packet of Samahan and a few condoms!
He videoed the reactions of the passersby he performed his magic on and then uploaded it on his Facebook page HeshanM. It has been viewed a staggering 870,000 times. He started his Facebook page in January 2017. But his street magic antics have garnered him a steady stream of faithful followers.
Heshan Manawadu, aged 30, is a graphics designer by profession and works in advertising. He sat for his ALs at Isipathana College in 2005 and then went on to study multimedia at Kent. He liked performing magic since he was a kid. It all started when his father took him to a magic show at the Habarana Lodge when he was 10. “It was for foreigners, but conducted by a local magician,” says Heshan reminiscing.
It was his father who taught him his first card trick. After ALs he took a more professional approach to learning magic, reading books such as Expert at the Card Table and The Royal Road to Card Magic. “Our libraries don’t have many books on magic, so I had to order them online”, he said.
He bought all the books on Tarbell Course for magic which cost a small fortune. “I managed to coax my father into it,” says Heshan, with a smirk of triumph.
Heshan used to watch videos of foreign professional magicians. “I guess a method and then try it out myself,” he said. He first tried his tricks on friends.
Despite having performed in magic shows and functions Heshan prefers street performance because he gets to see the genuine reactions of average people. “Their reaction is magic for me,” says Heshan. True to his word, when you watch his videos you’d see the glint of awe in average young boys at seeing him perform. Most rewarding is probably the stained-toothed smile of a street cleaner when he unfolds his fist to find the 50-rupee bill replaced with a 1000 rupee bill.
“I get to meet different people, but they all react the same way to magic,” says Heshan, explaining why he likes street magic. He says that although doing magic shows is more lucrative, opportunities to connect with people are greater when performing street magic.
“Doing street magic is not like trying it out yourself considering that I was dropping condoms into girls hands,” says Heshan.
But all in all the reaction was positive and he was never made. “It takes a lot of practice,” he says. “Especially if you’re doing it on video. Someone can always play back and catch you in the act and then post comments. Then the trick loses its effect.”
Heshan explains that magic is like the feeling of the rug being pulled from underneath your feet. “It’s an affair of a split second”, he said.
Heshan explains that street magic is a fairly new form of entertainment in Sri Lanka as opposed to foreign countries. “Foreigners know how to react to it. But magic has the tendency to scare some locals, because they think you have some sort of supernatural power”, he says.
But Heshan has opened the floodgates. His FB page now receives a steady stream of messages asking for help on how to learn magic. He plans to upload video tutorials on FB and maybe conduct a workshop in the future for wannabe magicians. His advice for aspiring magicians is: “There is a lot of learning material out there, watch them, read them and practise. Always perform them for somebody. It’s different when you’re out there performing the tricks. You get nervous. The only way to overcome your nerves is to perform them on somebody.”
Even Heshan is not perfect. He makes mistakes, but nobody notices when he slips. “In fact when I make mistake they think that it’s all a part of the trick”, he says.