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December 24, 2010

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Magic, masala and rock and roll

Indian restaurateur Vic Kishinchand gives off more than just good vibes at his restaurant, with the amateur magician amazing diners with his electric energy.

Guests at his Indian restaurant "Kaveen's Kitchen" on Huashan Road might be excused for thinking a searing hot curry has given them hallucinations when Kishinchand performs his amazing array of tricks.

These include moving small objects like a mobile phone or cigarette lighter across the table without touching them, making a coin spin and levitate in mid air and walking around with a glowing finger tip.

Kishinchand attributes some of his magic skills to lightning that struck his family home when he was a child.

In a favorite trick, he asks guests to hold their arms out; he then rubs his hands together, before passing them over the outstretched arms. Diners can eerily feel the static electricity and sometimes see the hair rising on their arms.

"A lot of people don't believe this but when I was a 13-year-old kid in Hong Kong we stayed on the top floor and one day there was a storm - I was watching TV when lightning hit the antenna," he says.

"The TV exploded and I passed out for a couple of hours. A week or so later this thing happened."

Kishinchand says he has been practicing magic since he was a child and enjoys astonishing people with impromptu performances.

He says his glowing fingertip trick, "D'light," works especially well when he walks past a parked car and suddenly bewilders onlookers by touching the red brake light and then holding up a glowing red finger.

"Lights in elevators also work well; you casually touch the light and then pop it in your ear. I have done it in taxis with the meter light.

"The taxi drivers freak out, especially when I jokingly tell them the meter won't keep running."

While the source of his magical energy may be up for debate, one of his most impressive tricks is the result of practice rather than an act of nature.

It took him three years to master the coin trick, in which he apparently makes a spinning coin or ring levitate and controls its movements.

Professional magicians regard this as one of the more challenging close magic tricks to master and is most impressive when performed with a ring.

Kishinchand makes the ring seem to float through the air before placing it back on the finger of the awed ring owner.

While magic is a hobby, restaurants are in his blood. His family migrated to Hong Kong from Pune, in India's Maharashtra state, more than 50 years ago and opened an Indian restaurant.

"When I was a kid I helped in the restaurant, which I hated," he says.

Today Kishinchand owns one of the Shanghai's oldest Indian restaurants - he was a pioneer of Indian cuisine in the city.

His small, 28-seat eatery opened in 2000 when the only other Indian restaurant was The Tandoor.

But it was nightclubs that first drew Kishinchand into travel around Asia, first as a DJ and then as a nightclub manager.

He first came to Shanghai in 1987 and DJ'd for two years at the Sheraton Hotel. It was only one of two nightclubs in the city at the time.

"In those days we had to play everything from cha-cha to slow songs, to rock and roll. There were not many expats and the crowd was mainly Chinese," he recalls.

During a 15-year career during the 1980s and 1990s, Kishinchand was a DJ in clubs in India, Malaysia, South Korea and China.

Before coming to Shanghai in 1997, Kishinchand managed a nightclub in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province.

He returned to Shanghai to run Club Absolute and then ran Club Galaxy, one of the city's most popular clubs at the time.

"It was happening. There were lots of expats and lots of students," he says.

"Now it's completely different, people used to really party back then. Nowadays, I don't go to clubs anymore."

During his Asian travels, Kishinchand was also known to spice up a party with an Elvis impersonation with a decidedly Indian flavor.

From parties to an opening of nightclubs, "The King" would make an appearance.

"I usually sing a couple of songs here and there, and I like the slow songs like 'Can't Help Falling in Love,' 'Surrender,' 'It's Now or Never'," says the Elvis fan.

He owns three sequined suits, in white, black and navy blue, impeccably made in Hong Kong.

While the Elvis suits have long been mothballed, customers keep coming back for the heady mix of magic and masala at his restaurant.

Other gigs in Shanghai have included a role as an Amazon tribal chief in a well-known Pepsi commercial with Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho.

While the skyscrapers of Shanghai are currently home, like every Elvis impersonator, he says it's the bright lights of Las Vegas that occupy the dreams of this magician and rock-and-roll-crooner.

"My dream is to go to Vegas to control the roulette table - just kidding," he says.

To see some of Kishinchand's tricks, go to Shanghai Daily website at

Vic Kishinchand

Nationality: Indian

Profession: Restaurant owner

Age: 46


Self-description: A gifted Freak.

Favorite place: My home.

Strangest sight: Myself.

Motto for life: Is to tell the truth even when you LIE !

Worst experience: Getting fake notes from taxi drivers.

How to improve Shanghai: Opening up a casino.

Advice to newcomers: Don't trust your LANDLORD.


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