We, Dhakaites or Bangladeshis, in the broader aspect, are familiar with paintings on rickshaws. Popularly known as rickshaw art, the art form has rubbed off and manifested itself in a variety of objects over the years since it first appeared in the 1950s.
The eye-catching characters as decorative motifs drawn on the backs and hoods of rickshaws are largely inspired by the "Bangla cinema" illustration of the films' characters, paired with vibrant colours which one's eyes cannot miss.
From clothing to jewellery, phone cases to home decor items, rickshaw art has become a staple in our everyday lives.
And to take the artform a step further, Anusha Alamgir, founder and curator of Colors Dhaka - a sustainable online-based clothing shop, had the brilliant idea to incorporate the age-old tradition into a colouring book and name it "Bangla Cinemar Coloring Book".
"The original idea came from Bangla cinema posters and I did not want to face copyright issues, so I browsed through public domain websites for catalogues of old Bangla films. Rickshaw art plays an important role here," Anusha told The Business Standard while speaking about her artistic endeavours.
Anusha was inspired to create the colouring books while pursuing an undergraduate degree in architecture in the US. She was living with a roommate, who was a social media influencer, and every time Anusha tried to engage in a conversation with her roommate, it felt very surface-level.
"I felt that my roommate is very disconnected from the real world but had very good connections with the world of social media. That is when I thought of making myself more productive by compiling a book called 'Things To Do Other Than Social Media'", Anusha said. The book is available for purchase at Colors Dhaka's Instagram page for Tk400.
Anusha continued, "I took a lot of art therapy classes in college. I utilised those exercises and plated them for mainstream people - sort of like a template for people to start changing their habits."
"Post-quarantine, I was looking at the books' photos sent to me by my customers and saw that everybody was enjoying the colouring section of the book. So I thought of creating a colouring book only for the purpose of colouring." Hence, "Bangla Cinemar Coloring Book" came into being.
Filled with images of Bangla movie posters, Anusha has illustrated the posters of prominent Bangla films such as "Chandranath", "Malka Banu", "Sonar Harin", "Dajjal Sasuri", and more with 30 outlines in total with the original posters in the back for colouring reference.
Anusha opined that art is an inseparable part of the Bangladeshi culture, rooted deeply into our communities. However, ever since independence, art took a backseat while the newly-formed country struggled to make ends meet.
After a few decades of Bangladesh appearing on the world map, art and art forms have started to resurface as people now have more time and opportunities to immerse themselves in artistic endeavours.
To her surprise, Anusha was amazed to see that the book did as well as it did - with 40 sales within the first hour. Being the sole owner and curator of Colors Dhaka, the turnout was indeed a moment of pride for Anusha. The book is priced at Tk300 and can be purchased from Colors Dhaka's Instagram page.
Other than being the creator and curator of "Bangla Cinemar Coloring Book", Anusha also sells vintage clothing through the page.
Sustainability has been a large part of Anusha's life. She has always tried to help people adopt a sustainable mentality towards life, and from this, sprouted Colors Dhaka - to curate high-quality clothing pieces which people will keep for the rest of their lives.
For a long time, people have strayed away from vintage fashion and leaned towards fast fashion - an economic but harmful choice for the environment.
Fast fashion creates wastage, increases greenhouse gas emission and toxins while being a major threat to human rights as the working conditions, in most cases, are hazardous, do not comply with employee safety regulations, and pose life-threatening risks for the workers who make fast fashion clothes.
"Before I started Colors Dhaka, I moved around the world for my architecture work. But as I was travelling around, I always had a lot of clothes and suitcases, so I started giving away a lot of them."
"After diluting down my wardrobe, I could fit everything I owned in three suitcases and I realised that I loved the second-hand pieces the most," Anusha voiced. Hence, her passion for trying to get others into sustainable fashion sprouted.
All the clothes available at Colors Dhaka are vintage and exclusive. Only one piece of each outfit is available. Anusha also resells fashion items, such as bags and shoes, that have been handled with care and barely used.
"My little venture is a fun and whimsical brand for people who want to express themselves through art but do not think that they are very good at it. So I focused on creating artsy items and books for people who are interested in art but are not the most confident doing it," she added.