Riding Solo to the Top of
Riding Solo to the Top of the World
Filmed by Guarav Jani
DVD ($25.95), 94 minutes, NTSC
Dolby Digital Stereo 2CH
webBikeWorld Motorcycle Video Review by Rick K.
Yes, there's a motorcycle in this video. The
bike plays a crucial role, but this is much more
than another motorcycle adventure; it's the story of a life-altering experience.
It's too bad that Riding Solo to the Top of the World
is being distributed through the motorcycle underground,
which immediately brands it as a weirdo with the
"normal" video distribution channels. The result?
Most people will unfortunately never see this gem.
It's hard to describe this video because it's amazing
on several different levels. Guarav Jani not only
completed an incredible journey through one of the most
remote regions of the world by himself on -- get this --
a 350cc Royal Enfield, he also directed, scripted,
narrated and filmed the entire adventure by himself.
Now you may think that this would result in an
amateurish attempt at video, especially since Jani
admits right up front that he's never used a professional videocam
before. But the result is camera work that ranks
among the most breathtaking I've ever seen,
and it's not just because of the incredibly deep beauty
of the scenery "at the top of the world", but also
because Jani has a true knack for the art of film,
capturing shot after shot with perfect exposure, focus
and, most important of all, intuitively artistic scene
You could probably grab any random frame in the 94
minute film, print it and throw it on the wall and have
a gorgeous work of art. But even if you don't
recognize the technique at work here or understand what
it took to put it all together, surely you'll be moved
by the images and the story.
The basic idea has been seen before: man goes on a
motorcycle adventure through remote wilderness.
But where most videos would focus on the bikes and the
breakdowns, Riding Solo to the Top of the World keeps
the focus on the story. It's all about the land
and the people and how it changed Guarav Jani. His
magic is in making us understand what this journey means
Don't get me wrong -- incredibly stunning scenery
certainly helps and so does the fact that this is one of
the most remote regions in the world, inhabited with a
deeply spiritual people who have a relationship with the
Earth that is way more intimate than any one of us
reading this web page.
This is a combination just begging to tell a story.
But it's also remarkable because it shows us a place
that, if not for Jani, we would have never even known
existed. Let's face it: there aren't too many
places like that left on this fading planet...
Jani took some risks for sure, but we never really
learn much about the effects on the Enfield, and that's
not a problem at all. Instead, the bike is a tool
and a metaphor for the single-mindedness of the journey.
Riding solo on a motorcycle on any type of long-distance
adventure through the wilderness is a trip unto itself,
and even more so at, say, 18,634 feet on the highest
road in the world where altitude sickness is an
immediate and deadly threat.
As the story goes, National Geographic wasn't even
allowed to visit some of the places that we see on
Jani's trip. Apparently, a single traveler on an
old Enfield slipped through the cracks of the military
border guards in a way that the big guys couldn't -- and
The basic idea was for Jani to tour through the
Changthang Plateau, way up in the north of India,
situated between the Ladakh and Himalayas (I told you it
was a place you've never heard of!).
He carried all of his equipment, water and extra fuel
on the tiny Enfield, stopping along the way to get some
rough metal framing added to the bike to carry the 300kg
of equipment. Jani shows us in the video how he
would have to set up the camera, go back, ride towards
or away from the cam and then go back to get it for each
shot of him on the bike. That in and of itself
must have been a frustrating experience, especially with
some of the conditions in that region.
The result is a really wonderful view for the entire
family, motorcycle nut or not. The film has won
several awards so far, including Best Documentary Award
(Biography), at the 2006 Kerala Signs Film Festival;
Recipient of National Critics Award and the Golden Conch
for Best Documentary at the 2006 Mumbai International
Film Festival and it was nominated for Best
International Documentary Award at the 2006 Calgary
International Film Festival.
Guarav Jani is apparently coming to the U.S. this
summer and will be scheduling some showings with local
motorcycle clubs and answering questions about this
remarkable video. Do yourself a favor and either
buy a copy or go see Guarav if he's in your neck of the
woods. Highly recommended.
Review Rating System |
Reviews Home |