Born into a illustrious family, Madhu Ambat’s artistic roots are easy to understand. His great grandfather Kundoor Narayana Menon was a great poet. He was a pioneer in taking Malayalam poetry out of the clutches of Sanskrit. A renowned poet, he is considered to be the first poet in Malayalam to write without any influence of Sanskrit.
His grandfather Ambat Sivarama Menon was a brilliant lawyer in Madras High court. In 1936, he was elected to the Cochin Legislative Council. Two years later, he was appointed Minister for Rural Development on June 17, 1937. He was the First Elected Minister of an Indian state.
Komarath Bhagyanath, Madhu’s father, resigned from his profession as Professor of English in a college at Erode, to start his full evening show of magic and illusions. Fantasia, as his show was known, was the biggest show of magical entertainment in South India. For presenting Fantasia, 2 lorry loads of magical equipment were used and a crew of 25 to help behind as well as on stage.
As a professor he influenced many minds, as a magician he entertained millions, as a husband he completed fifty years of marital bliss, as a father he was full of love and affection. He stood tall and proud and was always humane. He was truly a complete man, like a banyan tree, giving shade to each and every one.
When K. Bhagyanath , the sole architect of FANTASIA – a super show of magic and illusions, extending for nearly 3 hours – left us on 15th January, 1999, the world lost a great man.
Magic was his passion from the tender age of 9, and this passion just grew to become a mammoth stage show – FANTASIA the only one of its kind in peninsular India even today. He gave his first performance as an amateur magician at the age of 12. Though magic was his real passion, he finished his Master’s degree in literature and became professor of English. In early 1960 his passion overtook his profession and he resigned his job to become a full-fledged magician.
In 1963 he shifted to Madras (now Chennai) giving up the security of a permanent job. Filled with feelings of apprehension and without a “God Father” to launch his FANTASIA, he began his show of magic and illusion in 1965. This was a full evening magic show, spiced with humour and spiked with excitement, and he soon became a favourite showman. Since then Bhagyanath has entertained audiences all over the world.
His most remarkable attribute was his transparent sincerity. His response to any situation was governed by textbook idealism. His gentleness was no stagecraft and his sentimentalism was endearing. He was a true Gandhian and lived by his principles till his dying day. During his young age he was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and took up the Indian Freedom struggle to his heart. He was a prominent students’ leader throughout the independence struggle Of India.
Tall, handsome and with a voice that needed no megaphone, his shows ran to overflowing houses. Often quoted as “The most educated Magician in the World”, he lived up to it. His enthusiasm for research and experimentation on magic and allied arts was phenomenal and his collection of books on these subjects is a treasure house of information.
He believed that magic is one of the finest arts. He used to say that. ” All arts create illusions”. A painter paints a rose using colours creating the illusion of rose on the canvas. An actor, with his skill, creates the character and so on. Magic also creates illusions but with a difference. While all other arts try to create the illusion of reality magic alone creates the illusion of unreality of supernatural and of unseen powers at work. A modern magician is an actor acting the role of a legendary miracle man, creating seemingly impossible feats on stage using scientific principles.
Today FANTASIA remains just a memory of fantastic performances, treasured by his family and hankered for by audiences for an “encore”, but Bhagyanath is no more there to oblige. Leaving behind an unfillable vacuum in the world of magic and all those who were close to him bereft of his warmth, kindness and an uncommon understanding of human nature. Though he is no more with us, his spirit of adventure and enterprise live on…
Madhu Ambat’s roots of photographic talents can be traced to his father who was an amateur photographer in his younger days. He has won many awards for his pictures and he has many magazine cover pictures to his credit.
After graduating in Physics from Victoria College, Palghat, Kerala, Madhu Ambat got admission in both Indian Institute of Technology and Film & Television Institute of India, Pune. Both his father and mother, Sulochana Bhyagyanath, encouraged him to choose a career which he loved best. Madhu Ambat’s heart was with cinema and his parents stood by him, inspiring him to reach great heights.
By the time he graduated from Film and Television Institute of India in 1973, his only sister Vidhubala had become one of the most popular actresses in Malayalam cinema. A talented Bharatanatyam dancer, she acted in more than 100 films before she got married to Murali Kumar. She has a son Arjun. They live in Calicut.
Madhu Ambat lives in Chennai. He is married to Latha. They have two sons, Darshan and Rythwin.
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