The image is that of a Transformer — a fictional, self-aware, advanced alien robot who lives on earth disguised as a high-end automobile. It seems to be an Autobot, the wisest and senior-most of the species. However, it doesn’t have any of the typical high-end automobile features — there is no Chevrolet or Nissan logo, like in the case of Transformers Bumblebee and Ironhide, respectively. Instead, it has a lord Vishnu-esque crown, and the torso of an Indian truck — the bonnet is decorated with garlands, with a Jai Mata Di board tied to one of the headlights.
This is Shakti, a Transformer who has apparently lived on earth as a typical Indian truck. Closely resembling goddess Durga, it is armed with a sword, a handgun, and a sickle. Shakti was conceptualised and designed by Jaipur-based concept artist Anirudh Singh (25).
“Shakti is designed like a goddess because it transforms into a lorry — one of the defining vehicles of India, and the livelihood of thousands of truck drivers across the country,” says Singh. Uploaded on Facebook, Shakti is the one of the characters from Singh’s Transformers India Project (TIP) — an eight-part graphic series that depicts Transformers living as Indian machines — a Padmini Fiat and a Bhoomiputra tractor, to name a few.
Singh has a master’s degree in gaming art and management from DSK International Campus, Pune — a college that provides graphic design-oriented academic courses. He freelances for gaming companies, and develops in-game art professionally. The ITP series, however, was a personal one for Singh — an ode to the original Japanese Transformer action figures he owned, growing up in his hometown, Jaipur. “I thought of it as magic — a car that can unfold into a Transformer robot and back into a car,” says Singh.
His fascination with the vehicular transformation is evident — his sketches depict the complete process of a vehicle reconstructing itself into a robot. To familiarise himself with the various automobile parts and the inner mechanism of the robots, Singh spent hours researching the assembly of each vehicle. “It helped me design the transformation while keeping the overall design easily recognisable,” says Singh.
Yet, Singh’s designs go beyond the outer transformation — they also reflect the personality attached to each Indian vehicle. So, for instance, while Shakti symbolises a mix of power and simplicity, the Omni Van Transformer, called The Abductor, is a villain, symbolising kidnapping, murder, and other sinister crimes. “The Omni has traditionally been used to depict kidnappings, murders and heists in Bollywood films. That’s what I associate the vehicle with,” says Singh. Another Transformer — Daddy’s Boy — converts into a Scorpio jeep, and carries a hockey stick as a weapon to represent the road bullies of Gurgaon.
Singh has so far featured some of India’s most popular and easily recognisable vehicles — Rajdoot and Chetak bikes, the Ambassador car, and the iconic Padmini Fiat. And though, currently, he has taken a break from TIP to spend some time at home in Jaipur, he is looking to reboot the series in January 2017. “I will use this time to look up more Indian vehicles and work them into Transformers,” he says.
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