You Got Magic with Neel Madhav's new season on Sony BBC Earth tries too hard to be engaging
You Got Magic with Neel Madhav, which promises to combine the thrills of travel and magic, fails to hold viewers attention.
With almost half of the world homebound, social distancing and scourging cookbooks to make more meals at home, it almost feels surreal to watch a travel show from the confines of my room.
However, while the country slowly reopens with regulated travel restrictions and validated masked-selfies, blame these bleak times which make for a desire to vicariously experience the greatness of somewhere else. Hence, travel shows can make up for a perfect substitute to take a seat back and virtually escape.
Neel Madhav, the Mumbai-based illusionist, returns with the new season of his travel show You Got Magic with Neel Madhav on Sony BBC Earth. The show sees Madhav taking a nostalgic trip to his roots in Dehradun, attending the International Festival of Kites at Ahemdabad during Uttrayan, relishing the Onam Sadhya in Kerala and revelling in a luxurious mountainous resort at Almora. However, the interesting part of the show is not only when the host showcases his illusions but also shares the ‘must-eat’ local cuisine and ‘must-see’ culture tidbits of that particular destination.
In Dehardun, Madhav takes a trip down the memory lane with his alma mater, The Doon School. Madhav commences the 25-minute episode by taking his viewers on a school tour, from hostel rooms, smart classrooms to the cafeteria. He interacts with the students, shares anecdotes from his days at school, learns the 'latest lingo' and midway through the episode, demonstrates some sleight of hand including mentalism and card tricks. However, in an unusual turn of events, the episode almost loses its focus when it makes a switch to a montage of students regaling their experience at the Doon, which kind of comes off as a promotional reel.
When we travel to Kerala, it is time for the popular boat race. However, for a state which is known for its beautiful backwaters and striking scenery, the camera hardly pans to the visuals. It does showcase the canoes, loud cheers of the crowds, and well-aligned paddling boats but never feels immersive enough. For the latter part of the day, the host takes us to Alappuzha's Punnamada Resort to give a sneak peek into the relaxing luxury stay by the backwaters of Kerala.
My favourite part of the show was watching Madhav's magic tricks with kites in the Ahemdabad episode. He takes viewers around the Patang Bazaar market which is seen bustling more with the kites than humans. An official part of Uttarayan celebration, Ahmedabad's kite festival, brings master kite makers and flyers from all over the world to demonstrate their unique creations with unusual kites of all shapes and sizes.
However, Madhav knows that the best way to experience the festival is with the locals, from the rooftops of their house where the skies become more vibrant and colourful. He takes us to one such rooftop and conducts an illusion, combining art and magic, leaving the participants gobsmacked. In the later part of the episode, Madhav travels to the state's first Courtyard by Marriot, to experience the complete Gujarati thali. However, the show truly shines when the magic tricks appear on the screen.
In Almora, Madhav taps into the hippie movement of the 60s and visits the Kasar Devi temple which had once become home to several bohemian artists, writers and western Tibetan Buddhists. He then visits the Lakshmi Ashram, situated in Kausani, which was established in 1946 by the London born disciple of Mahatma Gandhi, Sarala Behn, to provide education for rural girls along with the holistic ideals of Gandhian principals. To top it with his luxury item checklist, he makes a visit to a family-run hilltop resort by the end of the episode.
While the show tries to provide an amalgamation of information, travel, food, luxury and magic, it loses its balance to hold the viewer's attention. Though Madhav seems completely at his ease as the host, the show almost tries too hard to fit in every element of a 'perfect travel show'. With hardly any new magic tricks up his sleeves, the show is never engaging enough.
You Got Magic with Neel Madhav is currently airing on Sony BBC Earth.
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