Artist Harun Robert returns to television with Disney’s ‘Imagine That’

Harun Robert   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

When Harun Robert aka Rob made his digital transition in 2014 — with his YouTube channel, Mad Stuff with Rob — he managed to translate the strong fanbase he gained from television into figures, averaging several lakh, even million views for each video.

But a question that followed Rob like a shadow, despite the channel’s steady viewership, was when he would return to television with his own show. He listened to their requests, which has now resulted in an art show for Disney Channel titled Imagine That.

“It’s a completely different process to make content for digital. It’s a shorter and slightly easier format. But shooting for television is more elaborate; it’s challenging and rewarding. There’s this rush you get when you shoot for TV, which I’ve been missing,” says Rob, over phone from Goa.

Playful learning

The format of Imagine That is simple; it is a do-it-yourself (DIY) show and a terrain he is familiar with and mastered over the years. He will engage with children and motivate them to come up with designs and craft models, introduce concepts and #lifelessons in a non-preachy way — a la the highly successful M.A.D.

Rob, however, says that it is unfair to compare the show with M.A.D, which laid the foundation for his audience. “This show is unique in its own way and we have created DIY projects that are entertaining and engaging,” he says.

Rob shot to fame after hosting the popular TV show ‘M.A.D’

Rob shot to fame after hosting the popular TV show ‘M.A.D’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The theme of the show is built around upcycling, where art would take its shape out of discarded materials and everyday trash. Rob agrees that it is a concept that has been done-to-death by none other than himself. But he counters this by drawing a food analogy. “If you mix two ingredients, you get a new flavour. It’s the same case with art as well. There’s so much out there, even for art,” he adds.

The idea is to introduce re-purposing to kids, drawing designs and crafts centering around that. “We keep generating fresh trash these days. For example, in my old show, I used to make models out of floppy disks, which were replaced by CDs. Now, it is hard disks,” he says, “Once trash changes, you come up with a different idea and work around that.”

The big picture

When Rob was performing his bag of tricks in previous shows, he was primarily dealing with an audience (read: kids) in the pre-smartphone and Marvel era. Has the demography of the audience changed, given the scant attention span amongst today’s tech-savy kids? “They are the most challenging audience to please,” says Rob, “Television still has the reach because it is a family affair. I’m not just catering to kids but families as well. Even during the lockdown, most households experimented with art.”

Their exposure to technology has only made the path easier to communicate with children, says Rob. “We used to love comic books when we were kids since there was no TV. But today’s kids are consuming a lot online. The medium has changed, but the curiosity is still there. My role is to tap into their curiosity.”

Which is why Rob has introduced a special segment in Imagine That, wherein he would take video requests from kids. “They can place a design request, or if they have a bunch of materials and are looking for a way to create something, we can also work around that.”

More than a decade into the business, Rob has interacted and engaged with scores of children, some of whom consider him an imaginary friend. He recounts the one time a boy walked up to him and said: “Don’t you remember? We were watching the show together…” It took some time for Rob to realise what the boy meant. “He thought I was looking at them through TV and was present with him. That’s the kind of relationship I share,” he says.

Imagine That will première on September 6 on Disney Channel

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 7:09:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/harun-robert-on-his-show-imagine-that/article32495382.ece

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