A Delhi Artist Is Reviving Forgotten Indian Poetry Via Stunning Art

A Delhi Artist Is Reviving Forgotten Indian Poetry Via Stunning Art
Khwaab Tanha Collective

Last year, I read a book called ‘Bombay Stories’ by Saadat Hasan Manto. Through his book, Manto showed me a Bombay that I have never seen before - he wrote about his experiences in parts of the city that were generally associated with things like prostitution and drugs, all things considered ‘dirty’ and even shameful. He wrote about the incredible people he met there; the people that made Bombay, Bombay. As I watched this man describe my own city to me in the most breathtaking, fascinating way, I realised that I didn’t even know what Manto looked like. He was so familiar with a city so close to me, and yet, I was completely unfamiliar with him. He was a writer I should have known everything about.

“If you want to tell the untold stories, if you want to give voice to the voiceless, you’ve got to find a language… Use the wrong language, and you’re dumb and blind,” said Salman Rushdie.

One of the many, wonderful aspects of India is that it has so many different languages, each unique and beautiful in its own way. However, as we’ve become increasingly globalised, we’ve forgotten about the greats that we should know about like the back of our hands - we’ve forgotten about our own maestros, like Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Saadat Hasan Manto; the greats that write in languages we consider our own. We don’t know what they look like, sound like, or write like. This is what visual artist Shiraz Husain aims to change this through his initiative, Khwaab Tanha Collective.

Source: Khwaab Tanha Collective

Through this initiative, Husain hopes to revolutionize the way Urdu literature is seen and perceived, and now, almost forgotten. He wants to flood Google search results about Indian writing with actual images of the poets and authors, rather than of “clichéd variants of pictures of crying girls and roses,” as he tells Catch News. He “resolved to give Urdu and Hindi poetry, as well the literature giants who created them, an artistic and strong visual representation.”

As for the visuals, they’re absolutely stunning. He has created over a 100 digital and pencil portraits, some hidden away in his studio in New Delhi and others scattered around the internet - intentionally very accessible and downloadable. He first draws each of his pieces by hand – “The feel you get from writing in Urdu or drawing Firaq’s hand holding a cigarette or Amrita Pritam’s deep eyes… it is a personal connection with the artwork which a computer cannot replace,” he tells Scroll.in.

Husain doesn’t only want to raise awareness about the Urdu language and literature; he also wishes to create art that can revive poets from Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam and Oriya. He believes that Hindi and Urdu have evolved together, and cannot really be separated – “Listen to Gulzar’s lyrics closely and you will realise that Bollywood is incomplete without Urdu,” he adds.

Khwaab Tanha Collective has even launched gorgeous merchandise with Husain’s works on them, including t-shirts, bags and notebooks. While our love for Jim Morrison, Keats and Yeats may never fade, our appreciation of our own homegrown wordsmiths may just be lost in the dusty pages of books very soon. It’s time for us to appreciate the artists and poets we have forgotten about, and through Husain’s creations, we now have the opportunity.

For more information on Husain’s works, visit Khwaab Tanha Collective’s Facebook Page.

(L) Paash & (R) Faiz Ahmad Faiz; Source - Khwaab Tanha Collective
(L) Kedarnath Singh & (R) Amrita Pritam; Source - Khwaab Tanha Collective
(L) Parveen Shakir & (R) Jaun Elia; Source - Khwaab Tanha Collective

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