Rahul Arya was born & brought up in Delhi, where he received his schooling. A post graduate from IIT and a computer engineer by profession, Rahul got the opportunity to work for various prestigious MNCs. But he chose to pursue his passion, that is art, instead. He is famous all over the world for his sand art. Read below to know more about Rahul and his incredible journey.
About His Childhood
I was always inclined towards art, even as a kid. I was not really into studies but still I always got good grades. But I was always at the top of my arts class though, and I used to participate in all kinds of drawing competitions. Even then I was creative because I didn’t just draw what the teacher told me to draw. I used to draw on the walls and make sculptures, it obviously wasn’t sand art back then. I remember in the 6th standard I made a sculpture of Lord Ganesh.
Just 2 or 3 days back, I found an old certificate from some competition that I had won when I was in the 3rd standard. Things like this tend to slip out from your memory. But when you find little things like certificates & trophies later on, you get a flashback of all those memories.
Coming Across Sand Art
I saw a short film by Caroline Lee who is a famous film maker from Canada. This two minute film made in 1972 was about sand animation, which is not exactly what I do but quite similar. I fell in love with the idea right away. Doing something with sand on top of a glass panel with a light underneath, the medium itself was really intriguing for me.
Then I started with the R&D. If you asked me how to do it right now, I would simply Google it. But I was doing this 2006, and back then we didn’t have Facebook, YouTube and all those things. Internet accessibility was not easily available, let alone expensive. But I knew I had to it anyhow, so I put my Engineering brain to work. I decided to design the setup myself with some help from my brother and some friends. We hired a carpenter and a glass person, and the entire setup costed around 5000 Rupees. This was a big amount for someone that age, so I borrowed some money from my mom and with my friends’ support, I was able to manage.
So, I had the box, but the difficult part now was the sand. I researched about the different kinds of sands. I decided to use sand from the desert and from the beaches. Both are not available in Delhi, so I asked a friend who was travelling at that time, to get it for me. After everything was ready, I recorded a video of me telling a few stories through sand art. It was a very amateur video, I had to use Diwali lights that I found at home.
His First Big Break
Wizcraft was coming up with a new show on Sony TV at that time. This show was different from the other talent shows which were all just about dance and music. So, I sent them my video along with some paintings and a chalk sculpture that I had made. I wasn’t really hoping for a response, but I got one in a month or so. They sent me a ticket and invited me to Mumbai for the show.
I was 19 years old when I performed on National TV, and it was my first time performing for a live audience. Before that it was just me in my small room. I had never imagined that it would become such a hit overnight. After the show, I started getting calls for shows and events. But I didn’t take all that seriously because at that time I was pursuing engineering. But that was when I learnt that you can create opportunities for yourself, you don’t have to wait for others to give you an opportunity.
The Role Of Reality Television In Launching His Career
Reality shows, at least the ones that are actually real, are really important. They played a crucial role in launching my career, because I had no other platform to showcase my art and my talent. Today’s generation has a huge advantage in that respect. With apps like YouTube, Musical.ly and other social media sites, you can easily showcase anything you come up with. But all these platforms were not there 10 years back, so reality TV shows were a big advantage for me.
Convincing His Parents Was Not Easy
I had to hide everything from my parents initially, because being an artist wasn’t considered as a respectable job at that time. For that matter, a lot of people still don’t consider it as a respectable job. If you tell them that you’re an engineer, or lawyer, or a doctor or that you work for an MNC, that is what they consider a prestigious job. I realized that I didn’t want to be any of those things and that I have only one life and I should live it on my terms. I told myself that even if I fail, I’ll fail with dignity and take full responsibility for it.
Art was my first priority since the very beginning. But as a kid I wasn’t mature enough to think for myself. But when I was old enough to make my own decisions, I decided that I’ll do what I want, no matter how it pans out. And what I enjoyed the most was art and telling stories through art. So, even when I got the opportunity to work for several MNCs, I chose not to go there. Because from what I’d heard, if you got into that kind of a job, it’s really hard to get out.
It was difficult for me in the beginning. But later, I had to tell them because I started travelling more frequently to Bangalore, Mumbai, and other cities for shows. So, I told them that I was pursuing this, and I wanted to explore it further. But I also promised them that I would take care of my studies as well. Then I completed my graduation & my masters and by God’s grace everything went smoothly.
Looking At The Future
Whenever things aren’t going well I think, “Oh My God! What should I do now?” “Where do I see myself 5 years from now?” “What’s my 10 year plan?”. Because during my IIT days, whenever we sat for mock interviews, the first question they asked us was “Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?”. And I used to think “Dude, you never saw yourself taking this mock interview 5 years back, you saw yourself in a bigger place.” Plans don’t work like that.
I have just one philosophy, others may or may not agree to it. I believe that you should do what you love so that you love what you do. Do what’s important to you, do it with full honesty & dignity and you will sleep peacefully at night. I don’t care about what’s going to happen after 10 years, whether I’ll be as famous as Shahrukh Khan or not. Because when such thoughts enter your mind, you begin to take a more profitable approach rather than a creative one. An artist is not someone who creates masterpieces one after the other, it’s all about the process. Even after all these years I don’t consider myself a perfect artist. I’m still learning.
Who Inspires Him?
I have a big poster of Steve Jobs right in front of me on my work desk. He is one person who motivates me, just as he has inspired many others. And it’s not about the millions of dollars that he made, it’s about his hunger to leave a lasting impression on the world. And that’s what I aspire as well, I want to create something that stays even after I’m gone. I don’t think I’ve made that yet, but I will someday.
His Most Memorable Performance
My most memorable performance was when I performed for Mr. Shahrukh Khan on Comedy Nights. It was memorable because I’m obviously a huge fan and I’ve seen him since my childhood. I got to share a stage with him, dance with him and do his signature pose. And the most amazing part was when he said that he had my video on his phone. Someone who has left his impression on hundreds of millions of people, not just in India but all over the world, has my video on his phone. It was a beautiful moment for me. He also has one of my paintings at his house. That is a big achievement for me.
His Advice To A Youngster Who Aspires To Be An Artist But Is Told By Everyone Around Him That Art Is Not A Sustainable Career
My first advice would be that you should not listen to all these people and what they’re saying. Don’t let their words destroy your dreams. Every child is born an artist, everyone draws something or the other as a child or in school. It’s the people who classify it as good art and bad art. For me there is no such thing as bad art, all art is good art. It’s your perspective, you may like something or you may not, but that doesn’t mean that it is bad. So, the most important thing is to believe in yourself.
Secondly, kids nowadays don’t care about what the society says anyway. They’re not growing up in our time, when everyone – your relatives, neighbours, etc. used to be bothered about you. This is the age of social media, so if you are doing something creative, maybe you rap, or sing, or dance, or you draw, etc. you could just record yourself and upload it on social media. Then ask people for reviews/feedback and always be open to criticism and taking suggestions.
We congratulate Rahul on all his success and wish him more of it in the future. His success is testimonial to the fact that if you want something badly enough and you work hard for it against all odds, you’ll get it sooner or later. To look at some of his performances and find out about shows & events, visit his website.