Last when I was in Open Show Bangalore, I met Mahesh Bhat who was speaking about his book project called “Unsung II”. This has been a extension of the Unsung project which I’m featuring today. Mahesh was kind enough to give me a copy of the book for me to read and discuss here.
So what is the project about primarily? Unsung is made up of stories of nine individuals from different parts of the country. The cover describes it as “This book is a tribute to ordinary Indian citizens who have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of people around them. Their inner resources – vision, will, commitment, energy – compensate their lack of financial resources. They operate in the shadows, away from the glare and glitz of fame and fortune, to quietly fulfil their mission. Not for self glorification, not for public adulation“. With respect to how the project has been constructed and how the book came to be published is a beautiful story which I’ve written about further down.
When it comes to the book, its softcover with a dust jacket design. 89 pages thick, the book is entirely in black and white. I don’t know if it was a decision with respect to printing the book, normalising the series or just a natural viewpoint as both creators (Mahesh and journalist Anita Pratap) involved in the project come from a journalistic foundation.
I don’t think this book can be called a photobook. Instead you could say this is a book where images are meant to support text so it lies somewhere in the middle. But it surely does what it steps up to do, inspire. The stories told in this project might not be depicted in a purely visual way but I do suppose that this book encourages its readers to connect through an emotional link of courage and determination.
One crucial part about the project is how the book was brought together in terms of conceptualisation and funding. And most importantly how it affected the people involved. I spoke to Mahesh about the origin of the project.
I was watching my nieces grow up in the mid 90s. When asked about the future, they would say that they wanted to become Aishwarya Rai or Sushmita Sen! (they had become Miss World and Miss Universe then) Thats when I realised that we Indians had real role models. At the same time, I was meeting people who were making a difference to the society against great odds. Media was not talking about them. The idea of Unsung was born in that juncture. I started work on it in 2003-04. Armed with the idea on 3 pages of paper, I met Nandan Nilekani, then CEO of Infosys and asked him to support the project by promising to buy few hundred copies of the book and give the money to me in advance. It started then. Several other corporate leaders believed in the idea and supported by pre-ordering the copies. I managed to pre-sell 3000 copies @ a special price of Rs.500/- each to make the book.
After Mahesh brought together corporate and personal funding to publish this book and I’m so happy to say that Unsung has helped raise about Rs.9 million to the causes of the heroes featured in the book.
So what do I think. Unsung is a noble book, its a project which goes beyond storytelling. It comes forward as a catalyst of energy and postivity. I love the concept and how the book has come together eventhough somewhere in creating the balance between text and images, the layout loses quality. I wish the images were still bigger even if it meant making the book thicker. Conclusively this is a great book to have not just because of the content but because of ideology it presents.
For more information please visit the project’s facebook page.