- Culture & Travel
Beautiful, Nostalgic Snapshots of Vintage Indian Cars
Through the bylanes of Kolkata travels a pastel-hued Ambassador car. Frozen, almost, in time…oblivious to the mad, fast-paced world out there, that’s racing by in smart cars trying to outsmart each other. The vintage car stands the test of time, and its beauty is, quite naturally, admired by passersby who stop and turn. Life is certainly beautiful.
Peering from around the corner is lensman Deepanjan Sarkar, who has spent a decade capturing the many nostalgic rides of India’s roads. “In 2014, when Hindustan Motors shut down, my childhood road-trip memories triggered me to make a tribute documentary film, ‘Amby-tious’, a love story between the Hindustan Ambassador and the people who fell for her. The film won several awards, and is also on YouTube,” Deepanjan tells The Word., in an exclusive conversation.
Deepanjan’s love for cars began as a little boy growing up in the ’90s, when he started collecting scale model toy cars, and later, went on to start sketching them too. “I would also travel to many places in a family friend’s Mark 4 Ambassador, and I have such fond memories of it…” he recounts.
Back to his documentary, Amby-tious, which opened more doors in this nostalgic direction. In 2017, a friend introduced him to the Classic Drivers Club in Kolkata, a community dedicated to the Classic motorcar. “My friend even loaned me his camera to click photographs at the event. The members loved my work, and I was invited to become their Official Photographer.”
A week later, Deepanjan bought his first DSLR camera, and continued clicking regularly at their Club’s Sunday Drives as well as other fine automotive events…a hobby that led him to being appointed as their official photographers as well. As the photographer shares, “With a keen interest in telling stories though graphics (being an animator), photography became my new affection as a medium of storytelling and documenting historic vehicles.”
It only helped that Deepanjan had studied Animation Film Making in my graduation and post-graduation courses. But most of all, the lensman particularly loves to experiment with his Canon 200D Mark 1 and Canon R.
Deepanjan’s frames include everything from the cars to their owners, mechanics, onlookers, enthusiasts, the environment and lighting , which is what make them all the more special. And in order to achieve the perfect shot, he makes sure to reach a car event a bit earlier than the members do, to allow himself some time to get accustomed to the ambience. “I strongly feel older cars have mood, souls, personalities, and interesting stories to tell,” he reveals, adding, “photographing them is all about capturing all this in the frame.”
And how do people respond to his wonderful photographs? “People are always delighted to see these historic automobiles on road. I try to document those rare moments that are full of emotions…it captures some sort of magic. When people see my photographs, they relate with some of their own, fond memories from the past and even initiate a conversation,” he lets in.
And while the streets of Kolkata provide him with plenty of opportunities to photograph these cars, Deepanjan does travel out of the city to capture different vintage cars, too. “One thing I have learnt is that you have to always take care of these grand ladies. You need to drive routinely to keep them fit,” Deepanjan shares from the many conversations and observations he has had over the years.
In fact, Deepanjan liken these classic cars to “pieces of art, technology, and craftsmanship of a bygone era”. And one would have to agree with his deep love for these cars, that have been both an indelible part of the memories of countless families, and “an integral part of our cultural heritage”.
All images: Deepanjan Sarkar