The police on Monday recovered the body of a magician who drowned while trying to replicate an underwater Harry Houdini-inspired stunt – tying himself up with chains and ropes and being lowered into a river.

The rescue workers found the body of Chanchal Lahiri late on Monday in the Hooghly river, the deputy commissioner of the port division of Kolkata police, Syed Waquar Raza, told news agency AFP.

The 40-year-old Lahiri, who was known by his stage name “Jadugar Mandrake”, was lowered by winch into the river in Kolkata on Sunday in a yellow and red costume.

But Lahiri – his legs and his arms tightly bound – failed to emerge from the water to the horror of onlookers including his family and team members.

Eyewitnesses said Chanchal Lahiri, who was lowered into the river standing in a six-foot-tall cage having six locks, from Millenium Park for the underwater escape act, disappeared near pillar number 28 of the Howrah Bridge.

Authorities had initially believed that the vanishing act could be part of the stunt but immediately mobilised help to rescue him.

Lahiri told AFP before the attempted escape act that he had successfully pulled off a similar stunt 21 years ago at the same venue in the eastern city.

“I was inside a bulletproof glass box tied with chain and locks and dropped down from Howrah bridge. Then I came out within 29 seconds,” he said.

He admitted it would be tough to free himself this time. “If I can open it up then it will be magic, but if I can’t it will be tragic,” he said.

He also said he was undertaking the death-defying stunt to “revive interest in magic”.

Lahiri, a resident of southern suburbs of Kolkata, had done the same trick in 2013 in same Hoogly river, but this time he ran out of luck and drowned.

Six years ago, people watching his stunt show had reportedly assaulted him after seeing through his trick.

Lahiri took a ferry from Fairly Place Ghat at around noon to perform the magic, an onlooker said.

He was not only to be blindfolded, but his hands and legs were also to be tied up. He was to be picked up in that position from the boat by a crane, stationed on the Howrah Bridge, that would, in turn, lower him into the river. The magic was that he would come up from the water, by untying himself on his own.

Accordingly, he went to the middle of the river just underneath the bridge from where he was picked up by the crane and thrown into the river near pillar number 28 of the bridge.

The spectators who had gathered to cheer him started to panic as it was more than ten minutes and Lahiri was not coming out of water.

(With agency inputs)