Herbie Goes Bananas is my earliest memory of a car geared up to play a major role in a film ó the moody Beetle car that kept a bunch of us school kids tickled with its antics. While Hollywood has always relied on the technical wizardry of vehicles in films, Indian cinema has probed the emotional connect. Stalwart filmmaker Bimal Roy transported the humble hand-drawn rickshaw from Kolkata lanes to being a cinematic emblem of human suffering in Do Bigha Zameen. But it wasnít easy for him to get the film started, for that matter it hasnít ever been easy casting means of transport in films.
Would you believe it, renowned filmmaker B. R. Chopra had such an uphill task in getting the bullock cart race drama going? Oh yes, the film that went on to be Dilip Kumarís jubilee hit Naya Daur!
"When BR saab approached Mehboob Khan to direct the film, he had flatly refused saying, ĎItís a documentary subjectí, but when he narrated the story to Dilip Kumar, he promptly agreed to star in it and BR finally directed the film himself. Also Dilip saab made a significant creative contribution to the film by suggesting that the bullock cart should win the race against the bus by taking a short cut," relates Udaya Tara Nayar, the thespianís official biographer. Dilip Kumar practised bullock cart driving prior to the shoot and enjoyed it thoroughly. "Being a farmerís son in Peshawar, he would ride ponies as a lad and he had a special affinity for animals," she adds further.
Sharman Joshi first learnt to handle the prized hot wheels on Sanjay Duttís Ferrari before shooting with Sachin Tendulkarís that he steals in Ferrari Ki Sawari. And to procure the sexy red Ferrari that once belonged to batting master, was no mean task. Tendulkar had sold the Ferrari to Surat-based businessman Jayesh Desai, who let the producers have his precious vehicle only after recommendation from the Ďmasterí himself.
Likewise, Bombay to Goa director, S. Ramanathan, recalls putting together the bus that plays a vital role in the film, "We got the chassis remodelled according to the camera angles ó we pulled out some seats, also cut open the top to facilitate Amitabh Bachchan to pop out of the roof during the song "Dekha na maine, socha na maine`85" The comedy film struck home a chord and became a jubilee hit and Mehmood, the co-producer and actor of the film, gifted Ramanathan with a gold Rolex watch.
However, cars, trains and airplanes havenít always been a formula for success in films. "Far from it! Our desi audience has somehow never taken to disaster films (Burning Train, Zameen, Hijack, Tezz) or wonder vehicle flicks like in the West, we need a strong emotional tug. Like Abbas-Mustanís Taarzan ó The Wonder Car was supposed avenge the death of its maker, but the concept didnít work because a car canít laugh, cry or emote. It is only a machine after all. However, Naya Daur had a pair of animals and the story of ill-effects of industrialisation, so it worked. Ditto with Gadar, the love story was so strong," opines trade analyst N P Yadav.
Notwithstanding the adverse reports, all types of vehicles have appeared persistently in films. For instance, trucks in Caravan, Mela, Horn Ok Please, convertibles in Bramhachari and Anjaana Anjaani, bus in Honeymoon Travels, motor cycle in Dhoom and Heroes, scooter in Do Duni Char, ship in Humraaz and Bheja Fry 2, airplane in Udan Khatola and Zameen.
But if the vehicle is relevant in the film, like it was in Ferrari Ki Sawari, the film is bound to make a mark as Eros claims to have grossed 25 crore from this small budget film already.
Pranab Kapadia, President, Marketing & Distribution, Eros International plc said, "Ferrari Ki Sawaari is yet another success story, which goes on to show that modest budget films are gaining popularity with the audiences." So the idea is to keep the wheels whirring, ideas ticking and emotions flowing.
Romance on wheels
Who can forget the toy train in which Sharmila Tagore sat blushing as Rajesh Khanna serenaded her with "Mere sapno ki rani" in Aradhana? Or years later, when Saif repeated the trick singing "Kastu mazza`85" in Parineeta in the same toy train. Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan became the ambassadors of romance in Euro rail in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayege while Kareena and Shahid fired up the fancies of Indian Railway travellers with Jab We Met. Rani Mukherjee and Vivek Oberoi romanced across moving local trains in Saathiya. Letís not forget the sweet romantic exchanges between Tina Munim and Amol Palekar in Baaton Baaton Mein aboard local train. Dev Anandís "Uparwala jaankar anjaan hai" sung from the lower berth of the train , also Anand bicycling and crooning "Mana janab ne puakra nahi" in Paying Guest , are the top romantic songs on wheels.
Cops in films must ride the Bullet bikes while villains the swankiest Suzukis, Scorpios are used aplenty for action stunts, and Omni Maruti vans with sliding doors are the standard mode of transport of kidnappers in films. Politicians must have spanking white cavalcade of cars, love birds must travel in open convertibles and Punjabi characters must sing atop a tractor laden with stacks of hay. Manoj Kumar used bicycles in his films as the common manís steed in Roti Kapda Aur Makan as he bicycled for hours with "Himmat na haar, chal chala chal" playing in the backdrop. Director Rohit Shetty has a penchant for remodelled motorbikes, no Golmaal flick of his complete without various versions of bikes or bike stunts.
Ship romance Titanic, ship adventure Posiedon or Pirates of the Caribbean, road flick Motorcycle Diaries or air adventure Top Gun, which made Tom Cruise a household name in India, remain our best loved transport-based Hollywood films.