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Behind most autos in Bangalore, you’ll find a rectangular patch, flanked by 2 “Ds” on either of the two short edges, about half a feet tall and about thrice as broad. Most autos use this space very creatively. You will see this area painted in vibrant hues, covering broadly four themes - imaginary landscapes, religion, patriotism and movie stars. While a lot of them look kitschy, occasionally, you come across intricate, resplendent works of art that are hard to ignore. Here are few specimens that I could not resist clicking:

If someone were to device a popularity index for movie stars, based upon cumulative count of their appearances in auto art, Sanjay Dutt would come out indubitably on top. The first picture finds him glowering sideways, while in second he looks a lot more genteel, thanks to that simpering, vapid smile. There are numerous other variants I’ve seen and perhaps one day, I’ll go after a few more of them.

The third picture has Dilip Kumar scowling at you, looking extremely displeased. (Look at the caption near top edge, we are being told not to pollute the air; ah that explains it!)

The next two pictures cover local movie stars who I am totally ignorant of. Clicked the fourth one for striking use of the color red, not to mention the hearty laugh; that we find this portrait indulging in, lightens up our collection of sulking stars a bit. The subject of fifth painting looks very keen to flaunt his glittering shades and his new mobile phone; a little comical. (Ashwin points out that the subjects in first and second picture are Ambarish and Chiranjeevi - thanks for the input Ashwin!)

The last two pictures deals with patriotism. The tricolor in first picture reads “Amba” (I can read Kannada now :-)); I’ll let the second one pass without an explanation. Corrigendum: The tricolor in first picture reads "Ambi" not "Amba", thanks for the correction Ashwin; I guess am not quite there with my Kannada yet :-)... [The subtle difference between ಬ and ಬಿ made me falter.]

Closing Notes: This is the first time I actually went after a subject with single minded intention of featuring it on my blog. It has been good fun. I found auto-wallahs kind, even enthusiastic (far from the rude rogues you come across in Delhi and Chennai), to the idea of someone clicking their vehicles. Just one of them disproved of my offer, and that I think was owing to my inability to communicate my motives effectively. In most cases a hodge-podge of gestures and broken English was more than sufficient to get my point across, but on at least one occasion, a passer by helped the driver understand what I intended doing. A number of times I came across stunning pictures behind an auto speeding away from me; on other occasions, I was riding away from some, making it impossible to click. Then there were times when I would see an excellent work of art from a distance and would take anxious, long, hasty steps towards it, only to find the auto race away moments before I could click; while at times, I felt obliged to take a ride, as a gesture of gratitude, in the auto that I had just photographed. I am tempted to cover a few more of these exceptional works of art, these statements of style and would attempt another feature very soon!

posted: 8.2.04

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