Artist Santanu Hazarika doesn’t sing, but he is making his presence felt in the music world, with his intense album art for hip hop’s finest rappers
Hazarika describes his work as a surreal representation of Manga art
For the past few weeks, especially since social media discovered that he was dating actress-singer Shruti Haasan, many have been curious about artist and doodler Santanu Hazarika. But, long before social media fame, Hazarika’s journey started with him doodling on the back bench of his class in his Guwahati hometown. Like any other artist, he had been conditioned to think he needed a more practical profession such as engineering or medicine. So, even though he was spending all his time making sketches, which he’d sell to classmates, using the money to buy more comic books (his main inspiration) he decided to head to Chennai for mechanical engineering. “That was a dark phase for me,” Hazarika tells us on a phone call.
But, he found his way back to art again.
These days, Hazarika is a visual artist based in New Delhi and Mumbai. He gave up engineering to become the first-ever Red Bull World Doodle Art Champion in 2014. “I think my parents finally realised that I was not happy doing this. Winning this contest made everyone take me seriously,” says the 29-year-old. Within a few years, Hazarika has developed an enviable roster of clients such as musician Ritviz and hip-hop artistes such as Raftaar, Divine and Nucleya. “Before I won the contest, I had already started working with local bands in Guwahati. I would customise the band’s guitars and microphones for Rs 300 and a few pints of beer,” he laughs, saying he comes from Assam where there is a rock or metal band at every corner. “I grew up around music, but I couldn’t sing, or play an instrument. Yet, I wanted to fit in. So, I made album art—that was my way of being in the band.”
His inspiration also comes from South Asian art such as Manga and Anime. “We got to know of Manga characters such as Dragon Balls, before anyone else, and they have seeped into my psyche. I guess because the Northeast is bang in the middle of the trade routes, we got to know of all this earlier.” And so, he would describe his unique style as a surrealistic form of Japanese Manga art that is highly detailed. When we take a look at his work, we are also caught up in the details, and the colours and how it makes us feel—a bit like going to a different place. “My other inspiration is work itself. I spend several hours working; sometimes, I have sat at one place for a whole day, just creating.”
Thanks to that dedication, the future looks bright. Hazarika has recently collaborated with Ritviz for a very limited edition kurta, which will be launched soon and also another limited edition T-shirt with DJ Su Real, but he is planning on designing for himself too. “I am planning to start an apparel line. I will also have an exhibition, which will showcase personal work by the end of 2021, not work I have done for others.” As far as his relationship with Haasan goes, we imagine that it would get hectic with two creative minds in the house. But, Hazarika says it’s a connection of shared opinions and influences. “We bounce ideas off each other, and discuss our work. If we see something that inspires us, we instantly send it to each other. It’s a great connection, which among other things is also built on our shared love for black and white.”