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Alumna chronicles the life of Indian artist

Every grad student should be so lucky.

When she was studying mass communications at DU in the early 2000s, Roma Sur (MA ’03) got a class assignment that sent her to the Denver home of Manick Sorcar, an Indian-born artist, engineer and animator who is perhaps equally known in his home country and his current hometown.

“We had this project in the Introduction to Field Production Class where we had to interview someone in Denver that’s really accomplished and someone you really admire for their work,” says Sur, who grew up in India and moved to Denver when she got married. “[Sorcar] was in my mind because I had just moved from India and heard a lot about him but hadn’t met him — all I had heard was that his programs air on PBS and he’s this multitalented person, so I really wanted to meet him and get to know his work more closely.”

As she interviewed Sorcar, Sur quickly realized there was a bigger story to tell than what she could fit into a two-minute class documentary. She started doing more research, and eventually she proposed to Sorcar that she write a book about him and his art. The result, World of Manick Sorcar: Where Art Becomes Magic, was published in 2009 by Colorado-based Galaxylight Books. The coffee-table-sized tome features plenty of artwork, including animation cels, paintings, and photographs of the intricate pieces Sorcar creates out of Indian spices and grains.

“He’s a person with two sides — he’s a full-time engineer during the day, and at night he just transforms into this artist,” Sur says of Sorcar. “He slips into his studio, and that’s where he spends hours and hours creating art and animation and conceptualizing his laser show. He has five or six facets to his personality and he excels at each one of them, which is what I was so intrigued by. How can one man be good at so many things?”

The son of legendary Indian magician P.C. Sorcar, Manick Sorcar came to the U.S. in 1970 to study at the University of Washington. He moved to Denver in 1972 and worked for a consulting engineering firm, which offered him a partnership and later became Sorcar Engineering Inc. The lighting design company worked on Denver International Airport and the Colorado Convention Center in addition to other buildings around the country and the world. He has won more than a dozen awards for his animated short films, many of them adaptations of Indian songs and folk tales. He also is an acclaimed laser artist and the director of stage shows designed to introduce Indian culture to Western audiences.

“His art draws from both cultures — it’s never just about India or just about the U.S.,” says Sur, who now teaches screenwriting and television writing at the University of Colorado-Denver. “He uses Indian themes or Indian stories to talk about things that are universally appealing to kids no matter where they live.”

Sur and Sorcar traveled to India together for the book’s release in January 2009, and Sur says Indians who came to the event were interested to see what the son of P.C. Sorcar was up to.

“They were impressed with the documentation of the wide variety of art, ranging from water painting, acrylic painting, tile painting, tile-collages, Styrofoam sculptures to astonishing portraits created with seeds and spices, newspaper clippings and even with laser beams — all from the same artist, which was mind boggling,” Sur says. “P. C. Sorcar used to say anything that’s extraordinary is magic. His son’s work just established that. This is his brand of magic.”


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