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Hit The Road: India – Review & Interview With The Directors

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Armenian based Manana Films, has just released ‘Hit The Road: India’. A high-paced travel documentary featuring weary travelers, Keith King and Ric Gazarian as they navigate 2000km by rickshaw from Mumbai to Chennai, while competing in the Mumbai Xpress, recognised by Lonely Planet as one of the top ten greatest adventures.

The film starts off with a gripping “Somewhere in India” screenshot, followed by a tour of the little-rickshaw-that-could, which they hope will carry them to victory.
Viewers quickly become acquainted with the grueling and borderline insane 2000km route which is to be traveled in just 12 days. They set out from the starting point of Mumbai, and immediately you can sense this is going to be one rough- yet interesting ride. Newbies to the ways of Indian traffic, they opt for a more traditional follow-the hand-written-map and or ask-a-local-sort-of-style, which adds to the insanity of it all.

You get a clear scope of the whimsy and fun-first personalities of the duo as they stop in the middle of the road to soak up the breathe-taking Indian landscape, while persuading a befuddled local to take a picture of them. We also learn that both men are far from their element; by day Keith the Canadian is a chef, and Ric from Chicago works in Real Estate. The unlikely pair waste no time making the best of it, by revealing they are also taking part in the Round Table India charity program, which supports education for under privileged youth. We see more comedic relief as they done Elmo and Cookie Monster costumes, while visiting a local school.

The imagery proves to be a powerful element of this film, as they put-put their way from city to city. By day three the weather coupled with constant mechanical malfunctions have become the obvious nemesis’. The heavy monsoon rain wreaks havoc on the 7 horse power rickshaw, which has clearly turned on the team and is breaking down and guzzling petrol at an alarming rate. The pressure mounts as they find themselves hovering in last place, while trying to battle sleep deprivation and treacherous road conditions. At one point we see a battered yet determined Ric standing on the side of the road in the rain, wearing only one flip-flop while peering at Keith who attempts to hitch-hike into town to get petrol.

A moment of reprieve comes as the weather lets up and with a stroke of luck the pair find themselves at the front of the pack.As they enter the final few hundred kilometers however, things become intense yet again, as they push hard through insane traffic hoping to claim first place in what has been a mind-blowing journey. Overall, ‘Hit The Road: India’ does not disappoint and is a great pick for those looking for an action packed travel documentary. The film is available for download at: http://www.hittheroadindia.com/

Brother’s and co-director’s, Gor and Mushegh Baghdasaryan of Manana Film, sit down with LFF for an deeper look into what it took to make this project come to life.

Q: What inspired you as Director’s to take on a documentary in India?

For the last couple of years we both were thinking of making an adventure documentary, something that will seem equally exciting both to fans of documentary genre, as well as to people who never really watch documentaries. Then we heard about this annual rickshaw rally in India from Ric. The idea of making a feature film – a combination of a documentary travelogue, reality show and a road trip captured us for the next two years.

Q: What was the most difficult aspect of filming this project?

The most difficult thing was to shoot the entire film with a two-man crew (actually, most of the post-production was also done by two of us); we were operating a bunch of equipment ideally designed for a crew of 5-6 people, in the meantime we had only 12 days to shoot the film – you can’t re-shoot anything when the rally is over, can’t take a day-off to revise your footage, can’t get sick or break down. We were filming for 20 hours a day, literally following every step of Keith and Ric. The never-ending monsoon rains and constant driving were not making the shooting process any easier.

Q: If you could travel back to one city that you filmed, which city would it be and why?

Gor – For me it would be Mumbai. We were always very stressed with the filming every day, and most of the time we were seeing things through displays and viewfinders. I was looking forward to seeing Mumbai, as I’ve read and heard about the city a lot, and now I wouldn’t mind seeing it again in a more relaxed way and during a less rainy season.

Mushegh – I would probably go back to Panaji in Goa. That was the calmest area of our filming, and it was very different from the mostly busy and crazy cities in India that we were driving through.

Q: Did you find being co-director’s and brother’s an issue at all?

We’ve been working together as co-creators for a long time now, as well as partners (we are the co-founders of our film studio, Manana Films); although both of us sometimes work on side projects individually. It certainly is a very difficult process, as we have very different personalities, but although being very young by film industry “standards” (I am 25, Moosh is 23), we’ve been working together for several years now and have formed a common film aesthetic and in a way we compliment each other during filming.

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