Irked by the absence of a befitting representation of Indian poets online, a city-based artist has taken the initiative to revive their identities through a range of artworks.
Shiraz Hussain’s ‘Khwaab Tanha Collective’ includes portraits, postcards, paintings, merchandise and posters on poets and writers, who are not known by their faces despite being widely read.
Hussain, 30, points out how “cliched and substandard visuals” pop up when one looks up for Urdu poetry on the Internet instead of relevant images of the writers.
“It would invariably be a blonde or a sea shore, a rose or a tear drop! That is so cliched and not befitting the aura of the literature,” he says.
The artist, who teaches at Jamia Millia Islamia University here, paints by night, artworks which mostly feature an image of the poet and some of his verses.
“People readily identify Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Michael Jackson and Lenin. They flaunt a Che Guevera t-shirt because they recognise them and thus connect to them. We have our own rockstars in the form of our poets and writers. They were revolutionaries. We should identify them and celebrate them,” he says.
Besides the renowned names of Saadat Hasan Manto, Ghalib, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ismat Chugtai, Munshi Premchand, Kaifi Azmi, Firaq Gorakhpuri and Gulzar, Hussain’s collection also has works on bards like Joun Elia, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Akhtar-ul- Iman, Sheikh Ibrahim Zauk, Gajanan Madhav, Munir Niyazi, Avtar Singh ‘Paash’ and Parveen Shakir among others.
“These poets should regain their identity as popular faces. My effort is to make them reach more people visually through the medium of posters, wall hangings, murals, t-shirts, coffee mugs and various forms of creative and collective art,” he says.
Even though most of his works revolve around Urdu litterateurs, he is also attempting to expand his work to revive poets from other languages like Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam and Odia.
“I am coming up with works on Hindi writers like Harishankar Parsai and Baba Nagarjun, the people’s poet. I have also worked a little in the Bengali language.
There are invitations to work on writers in Malayalam and Odia as well, which I am looking forward to,” he says.
The initiative, which was launched in February this year has found admirers in popular personalities like poet-lyricist Javed Akhtar, actress Shabana Azmi, lyricist-screenwriter Varun Grover and Pakistani poetess-screenwriter Zehra Nigah, besides creating a niche following on social media.