Destiny in a Doodle

From mechanical engineering to being an acclaimed doodle artist, Santanu Hazarika talks about his collaborations with musicians, forays into fashion, and his artistic inspiration from Delhi’s culture
Destiny in a Doodle

Political, regional, social, and religious tensions are the usual news between India and Pakistan, but art can bridge these differences. Santanu Hazarika, 33, a doodle artist, certainly thinks so. One of his key collaborators for the album cover and video artwork for their latest release, ‘Mehrbaan’ is Hasan Raheem, a Pakistani singer and songwriter. Ritviz, also a singer and songwriter from Pune, is also part of the trio. The track, released recently has garnered over 6.7K views.

“Since it was a collaboration between artists from India and Pakistan, we wanted to create artwork that speaks of nostalgia shared by both countries. We drew inspiration from Mughal miniature paintings, as that’s common for both,” Hazarika says. The album art, featured on a square-sized cover, showcases arches and gardens inspired by Mughal paintings. Ritviz and Raheem are depicted like medieval rulers in a side pose, holding a rose.

Formulas to doodles

“Ritviz and I go way back,” says Hazarika, who began collaborating with the songwriter on his debut album ‘Ved’ in 2018, working on the album art. However, Hazarika’s journey into the art world was not smooth. Like many Indian kids, he was encouraged by his family to pursue a conventional profession far from the world of art. He went for a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Assam, but his notebook was rarely filled with formulas or equations; it was filled with doodles.

“I never understood engineering. The only thing that kept me sane was art. I started freelancing and creating artwork for small local bands,” he shares. By 2014, when Hazarika was in his final year, he realised he needed to be true to himself. “I had a lot of back papers to clear and just couldn’t do it anymore. So, I decided to leave engineering, bet everything on my art, and take a chance on it,” he says.

In the same year, Red Bull held the World Doodle Art Championship. Despite knowing little about the competition—he was informed about it by one of his friends—Hazarika decided to participate and, to everyone’s surprise, won the championship. This victory marked the beginning of his journey; the competition was a crucial stepping stone.

Destiny in a Doodle
Hidden in plain sight

Delhi art scenes

Hazarika was invited to conduct workshops and masterclasses on doodle art in Russia. He then spent around five years in Humayunpur, a colony of northeasterners in Delhi, with his brother. “Staying in Humayunpur influenced my art a lot. Despite being in Delhi, it’s different from the rest of the city. The area is rich with diverse cultures, which is evident in the graffiti art on the streets. This environment has significantly shaped my way of thinking,” he says.

In Delhi, Hazarika participated in residential block parties where he, along with fellow artists and musicians, would create album art together. He soon became well-known in the underground artist scene. Through this network, he met various artists with whom he would later collaborate. In 2018, he worked with rapper Raftaar of Delhi on the ‘Zero to Infinity’ album. In 2019, he collaborated with Mumbai-based rapper Divine.

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Hard work pays off

Hazarika went on to collaborate with various big names in the music industry, including Major Lazer, Nucleya, and Gully Gang Records. He also ventured into fashion, designing for Reebok, Adidas, and Levis. In a recent collaboration with Mahindra, an SUV manufacturer, he designed their streetwear collection inspired by the XUV 3XO. Models donned his designs as did actor Siddhant Chaturvedi, the showstopper of the event.

Hazarika who now stays in Mumbai has his studio in Lokhandwala, where he spends “70 percent of his entire day”. Regardless of where he lives, he continues to draw inspiration from Delhi and its culture. This influence is evident in his art, including his recent work inspired by Mughal miniatures, medieval gardens and monuments—prominent tourist spots of the capital city.

Hazarika also has a message for the younger generation who aspire to pursue an art career but are hesitant to choose the unconventional path. “You have to dedicate yourself to art, and it requires a lot of discipline. It is a gamble that may not click at once, but you have to trust the process,” he says.

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