I just got home from watching One Crazy Ride, a movie made by Gaurav Jani, an Indian documentary filmmaker who makes motorcycling adventure movies. I was first introduced to his work by Vagabiker, who lent me Riding Solo to the Top of the World when we first met and I was recuperating from my crash in the Yukon. If his intention was to hasten my recovery by showing me motorcycling movies that made me chomp at the bit to get out and ride again, it worked like a charm.
Riding Solo was remarkable in so many ways. Filmmaking is a profession that is almost unheard of in India for the average person, in spite of the fact that it hosts the biggest film industry in the world. Rarer still is the use of motorcycles for touring as opposed to commuting in busy cities. The idea of combining the two on a barebones budget makes this man and his work truly unique. The movie followed his solo ride from Bombay to Ladakh in northern India on excruciatingly difficult roads unveiling region that most of the world barely knew exist. For someone like me – having led a fairly insular life in Bombay – and rarely having the opportunity to travel within India, it was an eye-opener and a delightful insight into the unparalleled beauty of this country.
In One Crazy Ride, Gaurav Jani takes on a similar challenge, this time along with four friends, all part of a group called 60kph. The aim of this intrepid group of adventurers is to navigate through the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, making their way to the easternmost point without going over paved roads that went through Assam, the state bordering it on the south. Arunachal Pradesh is a state that even most Indians aren’t very familiar with, it being mostly skimmed over in geography books when we were little. This is demonstrated eloquently as they rode through tiny villages and tribal settlements and encounter local people who had no idea what lay even a few miles outside their village.
Most of the route is by necessity off-road on roads washed out by mudslides, some littered with rocks and boulders, some slick and muddy from the rains, and occasional river crossings. On the way they encounter villages and tribespeople living traditional lives that haven’t changed in hundreds of years. What makes their achievement truly commendable is the fact that they all rode heavily loaded Royal Enfields, bikes and equipment that make the average off-road bike on roads in the western world look like rocket science. It lays to waste the belief in most people’s minds that they need the latest, most expensive bikes in order to go adventure riding – a marketing term if ever there was one, because when was riding a motorcycle ever not an adventure?
The movie is replete with unforgettable sights and gasp-inducing moments. One that stands out is of the group standing at the top of a mountain range and looking down at clouds floating beneath them like ocean waves. One of the stellar scenes of the movie showed Gaurav walking along a long, narrow, rickety bridge high over a river with flimsy woven rails flanking each side. This brief reconnoiter is followed by him riding his motorcycle slowly and excruciatingly over the bridge. The stress and strain of the five long minutes it took him to cross the bridge was so palpable that when he was done, there was a unanimous burst of applause in the audience.
One pleasant surprise that was unveiled during the beginning of the movie was that one of the riders, Nicky, was a woman, something that the movie didn’t make a big deal out of, in itself making it unique. Women riders are so rarely featured or represented in a positive way in the average motorcycling movie that her presence is one to make every woman in the audience who has ever donned a helmet silently cheer. (When quizzed on this by someone in the audience, the director responded that rural India has such an enduring culture of women doing the majority of the work that seeing a woman amongst the group passed without comment, as compared to reactions in more urban, westernized areas.)
To summarize, One Crazy Ride serves up everything that a truly good movie of the adventure motorcycling genre has to offer – good riding, challenging roads, quiet, cheerful camaraderie between the riders, tension and uncertainty brought on by mechanical breakdowns, interactions with people in lost, remote villages and unique insights into their lives and culture. Almost every motorcycle rider who has gone off the beaten track will feel a kinship with our heroes along with many moments of – “I know exactly what they mean!”