It’s funny what friends can tell you. In 2009, Birendra Nahata told me about Gaurav Jani who travelled solo on his motorbike who he called “Loner” all the way from New Delhi to the Changthan valley in Ladakh. Biren handed me a DVD of the film aptly titled “Riding Solo to Top Of The World” and told me to watch it as soon as I could. Which I Did. 11 years later this morning, I chanced upon the poster of Gaurav’s film again on Radhesh Kaushik’s instagram story. Fond memories erupted and I started watching the film again on Youtube, when as a matter of habit, I scrolled down to the comments section. I was numbed when I read that Gaurav passed away in May this year.
We look for role models in life and tend to find them in our parents, grandparents, writers, artists, actors, athletes and in a rare case in politicians as well. But almost all the time, there is this one person who fills a void in the list – the void that must define the meaning of passion. This is where Gaurav Jani fits the bill for me. I never met him, infact I dont know anything about him and yet his entire act – right from mounting his luggage on to the bike in the first frame to the last frame where he rides away from our gaze is a lesson in how experiences can be life altering, not only for the one who endures it, but even for those who get to sense them irrespective of the source. For the faithfuls of the film like me, the visuals stay in memory not only in their primordial form, but also as a moment of motivation, to think that there was another person who faced an event in life and overcame it with their inherent qualities and acquired capabilities. There is resultant exhilaration, that pushes the self to realise a passion so preciously stoked in the deepest corners of our being.
For me Riding Solo is the epitome of travel documentaries. It transcends the confines of being called a documentary film. And deep down somewhere I want it to be like that. There should never be another like this one. The first two minutes of the movie hooked me to the entire running duration of almost 96 minutes. And over the years it has hooked many who’ve got the chance to see this classic. The film is a philosophy, an act of discovery of the self as Gaurav travels to the deepest corners of the Changthan valley in Ladakh. Places like Hemis and PangGongSo which are destinations for travellers like me, for him, are just milestones en route his great one man ride.
I share with you this original soundtrack which was the mark of Riding Solo. The credits o this are entire to Mr. Ved Nair. It has played itself in my head numerous times as and when I travelled and was my phone ring tone for the longest time. I hope Gaurav whistled it as he made his final journey.
I find it important to mention the fact that the film won the award for The Best Non Feature Film at the 53rd National Film Awards.