Sunday, September 09, 2007

DVD Review: Riding Solo to the top of the World


Some images from the Riding Solo DVD...
 

Cubicle dwellers who also love motorcycles – people like us, here at Faster and Faster – are often enchanted by the idea of motorcycle travel. We fantasize about setting off on that really long journey, riding off into the sunset someday. We watch, again and again, our favourite bits in Long Way Round and promise ourselves we’ll do something similar, someday. And then the weekend ends, and it’s back to the office cubicle on Monday morning.

We reassure ourselves that we aren’t riding off into the unknown because of all the right, logical reasons. What if we lose our job? What about the loans? The wife will object. What will the neighbours think? What if the bike breaks down and we end up being stranded somewhere...?

Which is why you need to watch Riding Solo to the top of the World, a 90-minute film made by Gaurav Jani. An inhabitant of Mumbai, India, Jani is the founder of the 60Kph Motorcycle Travel Club and is also a part of Dirt Track Productions. Apparently, Jani loves bikes, loves travelling and is a filmmaker.


Gaurav Jani takes you to Changthang, a magical place at a height of more than 16,000ft, near the Indo-China border. The sights and sounds are truly amazing...

So, of course, he combined all his three passions and the result is Riding Solo to the top of the World – a film that chronicles Jani’s solo ride from Mumbai, to the Changthang Plateau in Ladakh, close to the Indo-China border. This is, perhaps, one of the remotest places on earth, and at a height of more than 16,000 feet, largely devoid of any creature comforts whatsoever. Add freezing cold winds, sub-zero temperature, inhospitable terrain and a single-cylinder, 18bhp motorcycle that was designed in the 1960s to the mix, and you begin to get an idea of what we’re talking about here.

What’s truly amazing about the film is that it’s a one-man effort. Jani just straps his luggage and equipment – all 100 kilos of it – on his trusty old Enfield Bullet 350, and sets off on the journey alone. Over two months and thousands of kilometers, he rides and shoots the entire film himself, with no assistance from anyone! And watching the film, it’s very hard to believe that Jani has managed to pull it all off on his own. The film is very well shot and it’s clear that Jani has a talent for frame composition – he knows what works, and he delivers the goods.

Video: A few snippets from Riding Solo

Just think of the huge effort and commitment that must have gone into him setting up the camera, leaving it running (unattended), shooting footage of him riding the bike, coming back to the camera, re-packing it and repeating the whole process again and again hundreds of times. Mind-boggling!

An integral part of the story is Jani meeting the people of Changthang – the hardy Changpas, who live a hard, nomadic life. In Changthang, time seems to stand still – you get a glimpse of how people might have lived a hundred or two hundred years ago. The Buddhist monasteries, the festivals, the hand-woven tents, the fresh, home-made butter (made from milk churned in the skin of a whole sheep!), the simple people and their no-frills existence – it makes you look at life from a whole new perspective.

Riding Solo to the top of the World has won various major awards in India and other countries. It really is a brilliant film and we heartily recommend that you watch it. You can order your copy at the Dirt Track Productions website here. You may also want to visit the 60Kph Motorcycle Travel Club website here.
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