Mustashrik Mahbub has pen to paper. He’s in his element, sitting in a restaurant talking to a friend while he draws, letting the ink flow freely, his expressive style coming to life on the back of a receipt. He’s quietly spoken, shy almost, as he shares his drawing. It’s inspiration for his latest project, the Montblanc Valentine’s Day film: #UnforgettableKiss. Mustashrik is a hopeless romantic, making him perfect for the job. But it is not a self-assigned title. It’s one that his art teacher gave him; worried about how much he wore his heart on his sleeve. Fast forward a decade and it’s the romanticism and rich emotion in his work which has afforded him so much success.
London might not be the obvious city for romance but it’s the perfect setting for understated gestures with substance and meaning. Despite being named the “German Gymnasium” the restaurant where Mustashrik sits is distinctively London; amongst warm walnut timber panelling it’s both elegant and modern, housing a set of fashion forward Kings Cross locals. Mustashrik fits in perfectly, dressed head to toe in black, an understated comment fitting to his shy personality. Before heading to his studio, he talks about the idea behind #UnforgettableKiss.
“It’s an acknowledgment of the simplest and most passionate act,” he explains profoundly. He needed a way to represent romance in a short amount of time. The perfect kiss, he says, can transcend time and space. The film also speaks to the concept of falling in love in a few seconds, a fact proven by multiple medical studies. The animated film begins in 1924, the year Montblanc released its first writing instrument, before weaving through iconic romantic decades and finishing up on the present day. Mustashrik explains: “The idea of an eternal kiss transports you from the beginning of time to the future.”
“It’s an acknowledgment of the simplest and most passionate act”– Mustashrik Mahbub
Talking about romance is a very personal thing. But Mustashrik opens up and there’s a humble honesty to his storytelling, which is mirrored in his illustrations. His creative style is an accumulation of all his experiences, including people he’s met and collected along the way. He talks about how his artistic style developed out of the direction from a love interest. While at university, a Masters student saw his work and when looking at his free, less technical drawings she made the comment: “When I see this (style), I feel like I can feel your soul”. It was a life-changing moment. “It triggered a philosophical transition, where you look at the world, how you work within it and what you want to express in a different way.”
It signalled the beginning of his current body of work, confirming both his visual voice and that ink and the brush were the right tools of expression. “I can finally express what’s within me… and that was from romance,” he says, acknowledging that romance has the ability to shape and change our future, sometimes without us knowing it at the time. “It’s stuck with me ever since and it has become me,” he says, finishing the story.
“In those moments, if it’s the perfect and right kiss it can feel like you transcend time and space”– Mustashrik Mahbub
Walking into his light filled studio at the picturesque Somerset House, church bells echo outside. Mustashrik sits down to draw the last frames of the Eternal Kiss Through Time film while talking about why the world needs more romance. Not just love in general, but authentic examples of genuine romance. He mentions different cultures, different walks of life, no matter the background as long as a romantic gesture feels natural, that’s the most important thing. “I was fortunate to come across examples of good relationships,” he explains.
This is apparent in the way he talks about the breadth of love, and how all-encompassing romance can be. “It has to feel genuine. You’re going with the flow…with no expectations of what may come and what’s supposed to happen…the not knowing, and just going with it, and both of you being on the same page…you know when you feel like it’s all or nothing” he says, drawing sketches of two figures in an embrace.
“You know when you feel like it’s all or nothing”– Mustashrik Mahbub
Mustashrik pins his final illustrations to the wall and the church bells signal the end of this workday. While a kiss can fly by in an instant, an acknowledgement of romance might come in the form of a gift, especially this Valentine’s Day. Representative of a moment or memory, gifts preserve and embody the emotion we wish to communicate. Like the city of London, a gift can be understated and elegant. And like Mustashrik’s humble suggestion, honest and genuine. Explore the world of Montblanc’s Valentine’s Day gifts here.