“Hit The Road: India” is a small scale independent travel/ adventure documentary chronicling the experiences of two friends, Richard Gazarian and Keith King as they participate in the Mumbai Xpress, a 12 day, 1,200 mile rickshaw race across India from Mumbai to Chennai.
We’re introduced to Richard, our main narrator and ‘star’ (also an Executive Producer of the finished film) first and we learn he likes to complain. A lot. It takes a while before Keith gets any decent screen time, not helped by a day one case of Delhi Belly which relegates him to the dingy passenger compartment of the rickshaw but he comes across as slightly more laid back and cheerful than Richard although he too does his fair share of grumbling. We’re told that they’re friends and while they seem to get on well enough, there’s little sign of any chemistry or history between them for the film to capitalise on.
At the start of the race, they seem endearingly unprepared for the whole endeavour. Not only have they not equipped themselves with any maps, GPS equipment or navigational aides of any kind but they’re genuinely surprised by how ‘green’ the Indian landscape is and taken aback by the dramatic ranges of temperature and the ferociousness of the monsoon downpours that plague the early days of the challenge. If it weren’t for the fact that they were being followed by a camera/ support crew, much of the drama of the documentary would come from not knowing whether our less-than-intrepid adventurers would survive to the end (spoiler: they do). At least, by the half way point, they actually start to show some signs of enjoying themselves.
In focussing almost exclusively on Richard and Keith, the film leaves itself little time to actually explore India beyond the traffic jams and variable infrastructure of their journey. There are too many shots of the rickshaw driving along the roads and not enough of the landscapes and environment away from the roadside. Hardly any time is devoted to the actual race and the admirable charity fundraising which accompanies it or the other contestants and despite occasional captions telling us what town they’re in, there’s no sense of progress up to the point the race just ends.
Directed by Gor Baghdasaryan and Mushegh Baghdasaryan is shot skilfully and captures the journey prettily enough but unfortunately contents itself with telling us about adventures and escapades rather than showing us. Despite the numerous breakdowns and colourful events along the way, including a brief period of being suspected terrorists, there’s no real sense of peril because we’re only told things after the event. One saving grace is the soundtrack, which accompanies many of the montages of faces and driving: an eclectic but appealing mix of music featuring an international mix of artists that includes an instrumental that evokes the Nolan Batman films.
While it plays out as a strangely irony-free version of Ricky Gervais’ “An Idiot Abroad”, it’s never particularly clear whether we’re laughing at Richard or with him. I’ve been to India about nine or ten times, and even visited some of the cities featured in this movie but found it barely scratches the surface of India as a culture and a country. As a small, personal travelogue though, it’s actually pretty good fun. If nothing else, it’ll definitely tempt you to thinking about doing the Mumbai Xpress challenge yourself.
“Hit The Road: India” is available here in a variety of streaming/ download formats and packages.