Aviral Saxena’s weird beard is an apt extension of his personality. It saves his attire from seeming formal — a half-sleeved white shirt and grey trousers.
The inventive goatee has also helped bring this graphic designer his 15 minutes of television glory. He has been featured in an Airtel ad and the ‘Vote for Taj’ campaign; a Rasna TV spot is on the cards.
The unassuming model says, “I think the producers just said, ‘Go look for a weird-looking guy’ and they found a guy with a weird beard. I don’t care about it too much, but at least it gives me a chance to say, ‘Hey mum, I’m on TV!’”
When not at the Bindaas office — a TV channel where he is a senior graphic designer — Aviral can usually be found in his Bandra home, clicking away furiously at his Mac, designing logos, album covers, websites, stationery and more for one of his many clients.
Over the years, the list has come to include more than a handful of recognisable names — MTV, Channel [V], Sony Music, Smirnoff, British Council, Westside and filmmaker Ketan Mehta.
Not being confined to a staid nine-to-five schedule helps the 26-year-old find a fine balance between his job and his prolific freelance career. “I don’t want to lose my freedom. I am a free bird,” he says. In a sense, Aviral has always been footloose and fancy-free.
In a family where almost everyone was an engineer, Aviral stuck out like a sore thumb. Ever since he learned how to hold a crayon, the only thing he did was draw, draw and then draw some more. “I used to love winning art competitions. Everyone in our family knew I was different.”
Picking a word straight out of the John Lennon dictionary, Aviral describe himself as a “dreamer”. And to a certain extent, he is being literal; he has always loved sleeping.
The designer’s fertile dreamscape was inhabited by octopuses with 10 eyes, mythological characters with distorted faces, men with bodies of dragon-flies, thorn-filled forests and, more worryingly perhaps, cats that were ripped apart.
To the great amazement of the Saxena household, all these weird and wondrous creatures were then depicted on paper. “I liked floating in my own thoughts,” he says.
It was apparent to all that Aviral had “the touch”. And his parents encouraged him to hone his talents. When in Class 11, he enrolled at the College of Arts, Lucknow, to brush up his skills.
One day, a distant cousin, who was a student at NID, Ahmedabad, came calling. After seeing Aviral’s work, she said, “Why don’t you apply to my college?” He took the advice, sat for the test and got selected that very year.
His love for kitsch led him to MTV, where he finished his diploma project and worked for another six months. Then came an offer to work in Dubai. A few months in, he was disillusioned. Realising that he wanted to work in the Indian entertainment sector, he returned to Mumbai and kicked off his career as a freelancer.
Not knowing many people meant the first months were hard. The big break came in the form of a music duo, the Bandish Project. Aviral designed their website and stationery — visiting cards in a WWF Trump Card format. “I got 10 new contacts the very first night they performed after that.”