Artist at work!

Artist at Work Productions is a one of its kind startup, which turns one year old on 3rd of July, 2014. Artist at Work is a welcome change from the monotonic corporate things one comes across every other day. It made a splash right at its very first project and the outcomes have been more than what was expected, says the director Rahul Maheshwari. Here are excerpts from the talk with Rahul, the director of AAW Productions. Rahul is a student of economics at the Hansraj College of Delhi University.

What inspired AAW?

I am a student of Economics but as an artist I am a film-maker, a poet, graphic designer and I love rap music. When I stepped into college, I couldn’t make it into the college societies and I realized that maybe I was made for something else, something better. Also, I met a lot of students who were artists, film-makers, photographers but were doing courses like the medical sciences, engineering etc. I realized all of them have artistic sides but believed that taking up fine arts as carrier is not a very pragmatic choice. So I thought if I could build a platform which in the long run gives these artists a chance, a common ground giving those commercial opportunities. Also, I myself want to learn as many art forms as I can but that is not as easy as it sounds. AAW gave me a chance to learn, to expand my horizons. I am into film-making now and entering the realms of music.

What are the projects you have done till now?

We started AAW with a project ‘Pukaar’ from 3rd July to 7th July, 2013. It was an art exhibition along with live musical performances and portraits making at Dilli haat, INA, New Delhi. It was a project to raise funds for the Uttarakhand victims and while we were hoping to collect a sum of around Rs. 15000, we managed to raise a whooping sum of Rs. 155000. The exhibition was a huge success and was covered by many newspapers.

Later we were asked by organizers of Rendezvous, the cultural fest at IIt-D to organize something and we did ‘AAW’struck’. It was an amalgamation of arts, music, photography display, and a Harry Potter themed photo booth and this was on four wheels, hence AAW’s truck. It was different and eccentric and again a raving success. After that we gave various workshops with numerous NGOs.

Later in the December of the same year when Section 377 criminalized homosexuality, we did a campaign called ‘same love’. Under this campaign we wanted to know what in the general opinion of a common man on homosexuality but the campaign took a turn after we met people from the LGBT community. After getting to know their stories, the campaign turned to ‘No homophobia’ under same love itself. We shot various movies, held interviews all over the country and one of the films named ‘The difference’ was an internet sensation after being uploaded on YouTube. We also organized a ‘talk on homophobia’ on 21st January 2014 and had a panel of esteemed personalities like Kunal Mukherjee, a writer who flew from California coming together or a talk, along with musical performances, film screenings and a solo art exhibition at The Oxford Bookstore, CP, New Delhi. In spite of heavy rainfall and a rally by Arvind Kejriwal, we had more people turning up than we expected and this again was a success.

After that, we did another campaign called ‘iGEM’ which stands for International gender equality month. This campaign was based on the same theme as same love since we strongly believe that gender is a fluid concept and an umbrella term. It was a month long campaign and went on from 8th Feb to 8th march, 2014. On 8th March, which is International Women’s day, we celebrated ‘breaking the stereotypes’ with music and art at Select Citywalk, New Delhi.

After that we started with ‘impART’ which is our most ambitious project on 15th April, and it is still going on and growing with time. Under impART we teach underprivileged children art, craft, street music and dance. With the sole aim of imbibing creativity in these children, we started with one shelter home at Kashmere gate and today we have grown to other shelter homes as well. The eagerness to learn and their happiness after every session we hold are heart-warming.

We also celebrated World Music Day at The Living Room, Hauz Khas Village on 21st June by collaborating with musicians from Delhi and Chennai and as usual the turnout was more than we expected. There was not even enough space to stand.

Which among all is the most important project to you?

I would say that Pukaar was the first and best experience. We are a bunch of enthusiastic college children who got together to do something good, which turned out much better than we could imagine. It was simply brilliant; in ten days we set it up and collected 1 lac & 55 thousand. I had never been a leader and this was quite an experience for me. We were covered by various news channels and I gave my first radio interview for it. Also, I learnt a lot about queer identity, their struggles and lives during the time of same love. Every project turned out better than we expected and we grew as individuals and as a team with each project.

Where all are you established?

We have a Pune chapter along with the main work happening here in Delhi. We have had two projects in Pune, one being same love and the other being Encore, a musical gig. Also, we are in talks with people in Bombay. We are starting a campus ambassadors programme, through which anyone can join us from anywhere in the country. We also have associates in places like Singapore.

What are the news projects AAW would be coming out with soon?

We are actually working on internal reforms currently and are also trying to organize an event for street art in Delhi itself.

How do you manage work and study?

I don’t really have much of an option; I have to divide time equally to both. As it is quoted, ‘with great powers come great responsibility’ I am yet to experience the power but I have responsibilities I can’t shy away from. Also, the team at AAW is a dedicated, self-driven team of college students who make it all work out.

As long as I manage decent marks, my parents are at peace with it. Earlier they were skeptical on the idea of AAW but now they have come to understand it and give me the liberty and space to work. After my graduation, I intend to carry on AAW and make it grow.

Any advice to other entrepreneurs?

Patience. Patience is the one thing which I would ask everyone to have. Also, if you have not done something earlier, don’t be afraid to try and explore, push your horizons. Give your hundred percent, have no ill will and you are bound to succeed.

What makes AAW different and significant in today’s world?

You find different production houses working one certain specific art form. We on the other hand collaborate and invite artists from all fields. Here we work together and learn from each other. AAW Productions is also significant because one should never let the artist in him die out and this is exactly why AAW was made – To preserve and nurture the artists in ourselves.

Personally, I realized that my academics are for the life I am expected to make, the life everyone wants me to make but AAW is the life I want for myself. It is something I want to do with all my soul, and as more and more people join us; my faith in my dream strengthens.

Where do you see AAW in next five years?

I want to travel around the country and establish AAW everywhere. Five years down the line I see it working throughout the nation. I want people to see the vision of AAW and cherish the art they are gifted with.

“It’s not about the money but about happiness and being content with life you make for yourself.”

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Abhyuday Gupta

Dreamer. Achiever.

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