How many of you have read this catchy phrase behind a truck – buri nazar wale tera mu kala? I am sure, a lot of you have been amused by lines such as “Dulaari ki Gaddi”, “Use dipper in night “, “Blow OK Horn Please”, “Keep distance”, “OK TATA BYE BYE” on the back of a truck. Did these catchy calligraphic messages from truck drivers ever strike a bell in your mind? Do you know that truck drivers (and khalaasi) use the real estate behind their vehicles to express themselves? And that these slogans have a deep impression on our minds?
Truck Art – the bright and colorful artwork made on the back (or sides) of trucks and lorries – is just one form of regional art by which you can connect to the corresponding class of people: say deep pockets of India. Or Rural. The concept of painting art on trucks was born in 1920 in Pakistan when a transportation company thought of using the power of local art to deck up every vehicle.You may perhaps want to read this research paper by Prof. Elias from University of Pennsylvania on Pakistani truck art. While truck art in India is quite different from that of Pakistan, but the natural perforation between our state boundaries does let the art diffuse into each other.
Pakistani trucks are filled with smaller, hugely intricate cursive and very exhaustive designs. We may feel that their designs are in ‘excess’. Their trucks are not only decorated on the exterior but even the interior is filled completely with ornate designs and calligraphy – mostly pieces in Urdu with a religious message. Indian trucks on the other hand have much more simplistic decoration, one or two catchy phrase and a clean interior. The paintings & colors are bigger and brighter with mostly ‘cool’ message on the truck. Inside, at max you’ll find Preity Zinta or Kareena Kapoor in front of the driver seat depending on his liking.
Art is a form of self expression. When the imagination and thoughts of a person takes a tangible shape a piece of art is born. It may be Michaelangelo’s exquisite work of sculpture or may be a simple street graffiti by an artist who illegally painted the wall with an eye catching, attention grabbing bold message (I will discuss on street graffiti through another post). The artist who paints brings an inherent value and connection to some form of human thought – and he/she does it uniquely. Even the Doodles from Google that you do are just another unique way for us to express ourselves. Remember, we used to draw random figures on our notebooks or on our palm using a ball pen – the doodles?
In all the chaos, there certainly is a pattern.
Symbols and Messages- Some pieces represent a woman waiting for her husband to return home. Some depict nationalistic sentiment with a flag and salute. A flying eagle trying to grab a prey, a cow, a peacock, rising sun, national animals, cursive designs to act as a filler of empty spaces. Very remarkable and bright colors in hues of red, yellow, green and blue are used to catch attention. Besides plain artwork, installations like colorful papers/ boldly decorated mirrors deck up the truck in totality. The most commonly used symbol is a pair of eyes drawn beside the headlights. There is a genuine feel good factor in the messages. Where on one hand you see “Shubh Labh” ( good luck charm) on the other hand bidding goodbye and “yearning to come back home”.
Local culture- Like any other form of art there is always an influence of local culture and traditions on truck art. Influence may come from family values, major religion of the place, regional heritage, colors & weather which together add up to give the entire look and feel. Trucks belonging to North India would adorn messages from Guru Granth Sahib, images of farmers working in the fields, pictures of tractors, paddy fields which probably emanates from Punjabi culture. While in south the trucks will have a more alternative feel with different combination of colors and designs. Hues of brown and ‘Kali’ don the trucks from south and deities on top of dashboard are different too.
Deep within in all forms of truck art, you’d usually see there is a connection to human psyche of the driver. Remember that truck is more like a home for a him – he spends most of his time on it away from his family. That’s the primary reason why such designs make a plain-jane vehicle look more like a home for him. It actually gives a sense of pride to the truck drivers.
Personalities and influentials- At times you’ll see a huge Madhuri Dixit/ Madhubala/ Kareena Kapoor on the truck back. Bollywood run in their blood. The artistic precision with which the portraits are made on the truck backs are amazing. Only very select stars get the chance of being painted on a huge “National Permit” truck back. These are the stars who are the most aspirational and there is no place for small time or critically acclaimed stars on these trucks. Sorry, but that’s how drivers feel and the appeal works!
Oh by the way, art can sway your attention from the title of the post. If you want to package a product for such a market, all you’ll have to do is analyze how truck art expresses the feelings of a driver. And if you get your message right, the market will reward you for using a traditional form of art for modern commercial on TV. Just as an example, Akshay Kumar spotted “Singh is King” on the back of a truck somewhere in Punjab. And it inspired the name for his Bollywood blockbuster movie. Was it not a great case of common piece of graffiti turned to pitch a deep connection with the local film-goers of India?
Spell it success. What do you think?[IMG Credit] Flickr.
Written by Tamagna Ghosh & edited by Arvind:
Tam is a Marketing Manager for a major national FM Radio channel. He is an IITian and an MBA from MDI Gurgaon. He also holds professional degree in arts and professional photography and loves to follow the underground music scene & cryptic art.