In the shoes of the auto driver

For Hire
Last Updated 26 June 2014, 14:10 IST

Bangaloreans may find it difficult to empathise with auto rickshaw drivers. But it’s a little embarrassing to be the odd man out when a Berlin-based animator can.  

While visiting the City for a collaborative workshop between his Berlin art school and Sristhi School of Art, Design and Technology, Xaver Xylophon created ‘For Hire’, an animated video based on endless rickshaw-cruising and drawings. 

Xaver was overwhelmed by the size and diversity of the city when he arrived and started driving around in rickshaws looking for interesting people, situations and stories.

 “After a week, I hadn’t found anything mainly because I’m a rather shy person and didn’t really know how to approach people. Then I realised that all the journeys around the City were really exciting not because of where I was going but because of who I was going with. The drivers always told me interesting things and some crazy, funny and bizarre stuff happened during the rides,” he recalls.

Everything about the ‘rickshaw experience’ intrigued him, a fact that is reflected in his four-minute dialogue-less masterpiece.

“I liked the excitement of them facing the harsh traffic, the stories I got to hear and how the rickshaw always represented their drivers – whether they were well-maintained or dirty, the colourful stickers of movie stars, religious decoration etc. The interaction between a driver and client is similar everywhere in the world, involving awkward conversations, curiosity and sometimes even little friendships along the ride. But what made it special was that in a City so big, messy and complicated, I could put my fate into the driver’s hands, which made it a much stronger bond.”

Some drivers revealed little details to Xaver, like the one who told him that he goes to the cinema to watch a Jackie Chan movie after a good day. 

Another one, his favourite of them all, revealed that the only thing he does for himself is go to a high point and watch the sunset. “He was a lonely fella working day and night to support his family. He seemed like a melancholic guy and I could relate to that. I guess I based half the film on him because I thought he was a bit like me. The other 50 per cent is a little collage that came from many different moments and people.”

Talking specifically about the video, Xaver mentions that he made all the drawings with Photoshop using a Wacom tablet, after which he animated it with Adobe After Effects and edited it with Adobe Premiere. But did he intend to make a painting in each frame? “Not really. I just put everything into the film that I liked. I’ve always liked simple everyday stories told visually than with words. My intention wasn’t really to rebuild the city in a realistic way but to capture my idea of it,” he says.  

Another interesting aspect is the soundscape, created completely by Xaver himself. “I recorded all the city and rickshaw sounds with a simple field recorder. I completed the film back home and added some sound effects that were missing with the help of a free online sound library.” 

Making the video taught him that “no matter where in the world one lives and what you cope with, the basic emotions one struggles with are sometimes very similar”. 

“Even though the world of the drivers is quite far away from mine, there’s a bit of myself in the film. 

Apparently, emotions are international and I wanted to incorporate that,” he concludes. 

(Published 26 June 2014, 14:09 IST)

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