December 11, Brooks OR, USA: The Oregon premiere of ‘One Crazy Ride’ took place today at the NW Vintage Car & Motorcycle Museum in Brooks, OR. It was introduced by Tom Ruttan, Vice President of the society. The film features five intrepid riders: one woman and four men whose passion is to follow the road less traveled in remote parts of their native India. They were: Nicolitta Pereira, Vinod Panicker, Sanjeev Sharma, Gursaurabh Singh Toor (aka ‘Sobi’) and Gaurav Jani who directed the film. Sobi was in the US touring with the film and was available after the showing for Q&A.
The area in question is Arunachal Pradesh, a little heard of corner of northeastern India, east of Bangladesh and north of the state of Assam, famous for its tea plantations. The region is politically and geographically remote and the subject of a more than fifty year old dispute between India and China. China believes the area to be essentially southern Tibet.It is largely Buddhist and it is fair to say that the indigenous population looks racially closer to their neighbors to the north and further east, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
The journey begins in Guwahati, Assam where five members of the Mumbai based 60Kph Club gather to start their journey on Royal Enfield motorcycles. These are current versions of the classic 500cc four stroke single cylinder machines that had their heyday in post second world war Britain and survive today manufactured exclusively in India. Laden with everything but the kitchen sink, the troupe sets off in the west of the state headed for its easternmost drivable point.
The riders might be characterized as the product of India’s burgeoning professional and middle classes: smart and educated with lively minds, opinions and a very necessary robust sense of humor. The challenge is no small one: to safely complete and visually document a journey through an often trackless terrain without maps, GPS, film crew, support transportation or the usual trappings of ‘reality’ documentary.
The result was huge success. Some 90 hours of filming were condensed into just under an hour and a half of gruelling jungle and back country riding on machines ill suited to the purpose. The journey is a roller coaster ride over apparently insurmountable physical obstacles, flimsy suspension bridges constructed from jungle biomass, dejection brought on by failed engines and the unconditional hospitality of some of the world’s materially poorest souls.
For this filmgoer, who grew up with the original British ‘one lungers’ and once spent a day riding a small four stroke into the jungle north of Thailand’s Chiang Mai sans map or companions, I felt a lump rising in my throat. Here was forgotten territory: times when all care was cast to the wind, when progress depended on a fortuitous meeting or lucky timing, when something ventured paid off in spades. This last is the point that the film’s director and narrator makes during the journey’s closing moments: departure down a road filled with apprehension can often lead to new and immensely rewarding experiences – the opium of travel addiction.
But bravery comes in many shapes and sizes: each and every rider on this adventure gave up jobs to ride not once, but twice in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Especial kudos goes to the one female member of the gang, Nicolitta Pereira, who missed her brother’s wedding to make the trip and risked opprobrium from a society that still has deep misgivings that a woman should be in any state other than at home, barefoot and pregnant.
‘One Crazy Ride’ is beautifully filmed and edited. We are not talking OmniMax here. The video camera was oftentimes handheld, subjected to appalling treatment and failed at least once. The digital media were at risk of submersion in muddy rivers, general exposure to the elements and potential theft by criminal and terrorist elements that hold sway in the more lawless areas. People, their possessions and perseverance made it through; this is their story.