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Car designing and postmodernism

By Gouthama Siddarthan*


Among  several programmes on the my favourite American TV channel  History TV, the most charming and appealing one is the  Leepu and Pitbull reality television series.  That has gone down well with lovers of cars remodelled out of the old and the condemned.

The show revolves around master mechanic and auto-garage shop owner Steve ‘Pitbull’Trimboli and world-renowned Bangladeshi car designer, Nizamuddin ‘Leepu’ Awlia.  While Leepu can with his magic touch metamorphose scraps of metal into vrooming vehicles,  Pitbull brings them out into the market.

Though the content of two  wizards in car-making making it big in the field has an inbuilt documentary air,  the way it unfolds on the small screen is gripping and riveting, casting a spell on the viewers as edgy and fast-paced feature films do.

I was watching the show with the same sense of awe as I do with a Moby Dick’s work.

The following episode takes a cake in the craftsmanship of the show.

A billionaire wants to surprise his son with a gift, that is, a totally revamped and renovated old car. He approaches the duo who demand $20k . Money being no constraint for the man wallowing in wealth, he okayed.

Now the work starts. Pitbull repairs motor and other spare parts of the car with a subtle touch.  But this is not what is prominent in the show; rather the way the car gets a new design; how Leepu, the designer,  is at it is what counts, what steals the show. Leepu, for a car designer, does not give a damn about any fixed rules, steadfast regulations, so-called theories about car design. He hardly draws up a plan. Just on the spur of the moment he decides the design for each car. Being an out and out  creative designer,  he goes about his work in a rather quixotic and enigmatic style. The moment takes up an  assignment, what he does initially is to just caress fondly the car, stir its  soul and speak to it. Moved by his friendly and cordial spirit, the car gives up itself to him totally. Then begins his work of craftsmanship. He cuts the car, breaks it up, dissembles it and then, after a series of technical works, he finally assembles it. Now the car  sheds its old bearing and takes on a totally new life. It is a swanky, shining and serenely looking vehicle. Leepu is a postmodernist car designer.

When a car is waiting for his Midas touch, he simply stands before it,  ideas flowing in his mind over the ideal look of the car’s front, back and side parts and over the headlight design and redlight feel. Subtlety and sophistication marking the flow of his deep thoughts, he looks deep down inwardly and searches for an inspiration that will set him on a weird course to the finishing of the job.

By an analogy, I too have been on the same wavelength, thinking over how to begin a story whose structure I have already shaped mentally and searching for an inspiration that will throw up an opening sequence setting the tone for the story.

Leepu frantically searching for ideas of new car designs used to go to Jimmie’s shop selling old car parts, where he would get inspiration for new shapes and forms of cars from the pile-up of condemned scrap accessories.

One day from that shop, he lifted a weird-looking article and brought it home. It was an eagle statue that matched the spirit of a puzzle, a sphinx-like idea, that had kept on whirling and swirling in the cave of his mind. Now the idea took off, making a leap forward like an eagle spreading its majestic wings, nose stiffening up, and covering the blue sky with the spread of its wings. The idea was an invisible vision that now took form.

Leepu kept the statue to his chest and came back to his car.Then began the eagle’s steep plunge into the midair. He started making a miracle with his Midas-like touch. He says, “the final phase of a sculpture is to make its eyes open, quivering with queer life. Like that, the final stage of car-making is to create its knife-life nose on its face.” What an fantastic and fabulous perspective!

Before sculpting the newly designed car’s nose, he subjected it to a trial run during which billows of smoke emanated from the exhaust pipe, its engine heating up. Then it was known that all this happened because the car’s nose-like structure blocked the air-inhaling crevices of the bonnet.

Pitbull suggested to remove the nose. But an aggrieved and agitated Pitbull refused blandly, not ready a tad to compromise on the zenith of aesthetic sensibility and glittering grace which gets reflected in the car’s nose-like structure.

Arguments ensued. Then what happened? Better watch the reality show.

My pen is itching to write home about another episode from the programme. The editor of ‘Mob’ magazine run exclusively for cars comes to the duo, asking them to design a new car which he intends to give his dad as a birthday gift. But he sets a condition: the shape, structure and shining design of the proposed car should be unprecedented and matchless. If they pull it off, their feat will be carried in the magazine as a cover story and thereby, their popularity will leapfrog to a highly enviable slot. Wow…. a great and grand opportunity! To top it all, they are offered a marvellous chance that sets them leaping in joy. If they come out with a new and stunning design beyond human head, a design that can appeal to the aesthetically sensible car lovers, a design no one can dare to reject, their innovative and out-of-the-box car can cruise along in the New York international car show. The editor makes this promise to the car designers.

That promise sets Leepu and Pitbull searching madly and frantically  fora totally different and inspirational perspective. A long and sustained search has proved fruitless; the more they run after something, some intriguing vision, the more elusive it seems, like the will-o’-the-wisp. At long last, Leepu catches hold of some wheel that all of a sudden gives form to the hitherto formless and shapeless vision in the depth of his heart. The wheel served as a metaphor for the strange thought that has tormented his mind namelessly and formlessly.  The wheel finally has led them to the goalpost. How they accomplish it?

After it is a reality show. Is it possible to infused it with life, art and aesthetics which are several times missing even in feature films. It is proved it is.  After watching these three episodes, I have become a fan of Leepu.

Now, I am ready to resume driving my Condezza car which has long been remaining unused: If only Leepu condescends to rehape and remodel it.


(Translated by Maharathi)


*Gouthama Siddarthan is a noted Modern Poet, short-story writer, essayist and literary critic in Tamil, who is a reputed name in the Tamil neo-literary circle.

There are 15 books so for written and published, which include series of stories and essays.

A Tamil literary magazine titled UNNATHAM is being published, under his editorship. It focuses on modern world literature.

Ten books authored by his are being published in nine world languages (Tamil, English, Spanish, German, Romanian, Bulgarian, Portuguese, Italian and Chinese) before one month..

Now, his column writing in Spanish and Italian magazines!

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