Harun Robert, popularly known as Rob, has been every kid's saviour when it came to art projects. His show M.A.D was a favourite among many, for showcasing creativity in abundance. As of now, our beloved art teacher is a YouTube sensation, with his channels Mad Stuff With Rob and Rob In The Hood. This Teachers' Day, Rob speaks to The Free Press Journal, as to why art is an undermined subject in India, and how he intends to change that.
It's been nearly 15 years since you started off with M.A.D, why did you make the switch from TV to YouTube?
I guess it’s important to change with the times. People now spend more time on their phones than on TV. Statistics say that every person checks his/her phone on an average of 5 mins every hour.
Having said that, Pogo already had a bank of episodes, as I had shot many seasons with them, which they continued to play on repeat and hence they were investing a lot less in creating new content. I felt that very limiting so we mutually agreed to part ways and that’s when I discovered the amazing world of Digital.
You have been crowned as every 90's kid's favourite art teacher. How does that feel?
It has been very overwhelming. I never thought that what I did would create such a big impact. My aim was not to teach or be an art teacher but instead to help kids explore the world of art through fun and innovative techniques. To be like a friend where we explore the possibilities of art together. But now there is also a responsibility as my audience looks up to me for inspiration, direction and advice.
Did you always gravitate towards art (since childhood) or did you intend to pursue other streams?
Growing up I never thought I would pursue art as a career. In fact I didn’t even know art could be a career option. Art was considered more of a hobby at that time and the pressure on me was to choose either medicine or engineering. While giving my medical entrance exams I realized that I would probably land up fulfilling my parents dream but not mine. Enrolling myself in an art college was probably not the most lucrative career choice but I knew that this was something that would make me happy. It eventually turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life.
In India, even considering art as a subject is stereotyped by parents, how'd it go for you to not have a 9-5 job?
Initially, it was difficult for me to make my family and the people around me understand that one could have a full-fledged career in art. The fact is that, most of us are looking for a career where we can make money. I am in no way suggesting that money is not important. It most definitely is! What I am suggesting is that if you put your passion before money, your success will require less effort. I am happy I took that decision to pursue art.
The road to where I am today has not been easy. Yes I didn’t have a 9–5 job but just like any other career, there have been ups and downs; there have been times where I had to make tough decisions. I’ve worked late nights, over time, stressed myself out but I didn’t give up. To be honest, I am super happy now that I have the flexibility of not doing a 9–5 or being stuck in an office. I now get to work on different projects and pick and choose work I really love. My aim now has been to change the mindset and tell the youth that they could have a lucrative career in the field of art too if they are willing to work hard.
What are your hobbies other than art and craft?
When I do get time off, I enjoy travelling. I try and make it a point to try and travel to places that have the ocean close by as I enjoy scuba diving. I also love to learn new things and I keep challenging myself at it. I am currently teaching myself how to play a Ukulele.
What has been your biggest lesson in life as an artist?
To be happy is simple but it’s difficult to be simple. Art has really helped me to enjoy the simple things in life cause it makes you slow down and observe life. I believe that only when you find joy in the simple and the ordinary is when our lives become extraordinary. So lets not complicate it!
Would you like to change the face of art as a subject in Indian schools? If yes, then how?
Yes most definitely. Art or creativity has not been given as much importance as it should be given. It’s mostly considered to be a hobby but creativity is an important facet in our lives. Creative people are better at problem solving. It doesn’t matter whether you aspire to be an engineer, a writer, an architect or even a chef; all professions equally need the person to be creative.
I think schools should encourage kids to be more creative. How can they do that? Firstly, there should be a basic set curriculum where kids get a lot more exposure to different tools, techniques and materials. This helps open up the mind to possibilities and eventually helps them solve problems better. I am hoping to do that through my show and my YouTube channels.