Let your imagination run wild

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Let your imagination run wild

Monday, 31 August 2020 | Ayushi Sharma

Let your imagination run wild

M.A.D-fame artist Harun Robert aka Rob tells Ayushi Sharma that his latest show, Imagine That, will encourage kids to imagine, experiment and repurpose everyday items through the imaginative world of DIY

Long before do-it-yourself (DIY) projects became a lockdown must-do, artist Harun Robert aka Rob brought them to our own TV screens via the show, M.A.D, making art seem easy for even those who weren’t well rehearsed with their creative side. Today, Rob brings a new show, Imagine That, which aims to encourage children to imagine, experiment and repurpose everyday items through the imaginative world of DIY and give a purpose to their creativity by introducing upcycling as its underlying theme.

While the fans of that 2000s show might surely find this exciting, we are curious to know how such a show will reclaim its space, given that social media feeds are full of short videos of DIYs.

After almost a decade of M.A.D, what led you to start another such show — Imagine That?

As an artist, I love trying out new things and reinventing them. My switch from television to digital was to explore this new space and platform. I ended up building a great art community there with almost 1.3 million subscribers. This journey in itself was very exciting. But all my fans and followers started putting a request forward — ‘please come back to the world of television’. I guess people definitely enjoy that format as well. And after all, the audience is king. I got this great chance to collaborate with Disney Channel; I’ve always been its fan since I was a kid. The television platform allows me to reach a bigger audience and its reach is unparalleled. It’s exciting to be back on television.

Before social media, M.A.D was the only medium for people to know how DIY worked. However, now they are well-versed with the DIY culture due to easy access to the internet. How different will be your workshops this time?

The show will definitely grab the audience attention. I agree that there is an abundance of content around and about DIY. But that doesn’t affect the nature of this show. It’s also a little unfair to compare the show with the content present on the internet just because it falls under the same genre. This show is definitely very unique. It showcases reinvention of things, something I really believe in. Imagine That as a show encloses a lot of interesting ideas and projects. The DIYs that we’re doing on the show are new and unseen. The USP is that it is centered around upcycling. We often talk about recycling, and upcycling is basically a creative form of recycling. It is a very interesting medium in itself. It’s about picking up ordinary and boring objects and converting them into extraordinary things that have a completely new life, purpose and meaning. The transition from one thing changing into the other will definitely encourage them to watch the show. I also take pride in saying that my process of explaining things is very different than that of others. I can really simplify the concept. I can break it down and dissect it to the simplest form. So someone who is approaching that project or DIY will not feel intimidated by it. In fact, they will enjoy the process, they will feel it’s fun and they will want to attempt it.

Upcycling as a concept has been around for a while...

Yes, people have been aware of upcycling and recycling. With Imagine That, we want to introduce  the purpose of upcycling in a unique and fun way to the kids. To make them aware of the abundance of creativity and boundless imagination around them. As they say, “everything you can imagine is real.” 

Why do you think DIY is important? Can we merge the concept with sustainability?

Absolutely! I always encourage people to do DIY art and upcycling. We need to reduce, reuse and recycle. When you’re working with different materials and you’re trying to use your imagination and creativity to convert the trash into a more valuable item, you are stimulating your creativity. Mindfulness is just one of the many benefits that comes your way when you embrace a do-it-yourself project. When you’re working with your hands, it helps you a lot in your own personal growth. You learn a new technique, a new skill and a new tool. With this show, we are talking about saving the planet, we are talking about sustainability and we are talking about a better future. So all these ideas will help kids understand the process of repurposing things a lot better. Imagination and creativity can change the world.

It can be tricky to host shows for children because you have to pitch the concept exactly right... How challenging is it to capture the attention of the younger ones?

The fact is that I feel very lucky to be doing what I am doing. I love art. As an artist, I am very passionate about it. The fact that I get to do this every day is a reward in itself. When you’re doing it for kids, it’s even better because kids are the most honest audience you can have. They won’t fool around, if they don’t like something, they’ll tell it to you on your face. And if they love it, their reactions are the best. I receive so much love that it makes me love this job even more. It really pushes me and motivates me to do more. Through my work, I encourage kids to be more creative. Kids are curious by nature and they are creative. Their imagination is really vivid and wild. So my job is just to be a guide and help them in the right direction to explore that creativity. In a way, I also want to be their best friend. A lot of people don’t see me as a teacher. I never say I teach, I say it’s playful learning. They don’t treat me like a teacher or an adult, they treat me like a friend. So it is very easy for me to convey an idea or a message to them. I really enjoy it and I hope I continue to do this forever.

Given that things are easily accessible to the young generation today with their parents’ increased income around the country, how do you think the importance of DIY projects can be explained to them?

Imagine That will help them understand the importance of DIY and making innovative artsy products out of simple and easily available day-to-day things. It will help them understand the importance of little things that can make huge differences. Yes, now they do have easy access to material, technology and more. That is why it is important they have shows like these that can help them inculcate the right or good habits early on. Simple aspects like their safety while cutting or using scissors while making the DIY art have been integrated within the show. Through this, we aim at inspiring kids and young minds. We want to give them interesting ideas and knowledge that they can apply in the real world.

Why do you think it is important to bring out the creativity in a child? Or how important it is for the kids to imagine, experiment and repurpose everyday items?

Kids are very curious in nature and they are creative as well. People say kids are destructive but they’re just curious about what things are made of. They want to know what’s inside it and how it works or can I make it myself? So we are just channeling all the curiosity and energy through the show and are applying it in the right direction. I always say that creativity is not just for artists, it is for everyone. Creativity helps people get better at problem-solving, and it leads them to think out of the box. They’re also better communicators with a better understanding of visual language as well. If they have an idea, they can present it better. With so much stress around, it helps in channeling all that energy into something fun yet productive. The show gives them that great break while bringing them joy as well.

(The show airs from September 6 at 9.30 am on Disney Channel.)

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