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NRI filmmaker captures the passion of Royal Enfield enthusiasts.

Joshua Clement’s film will highlight the Royal Enfield bike’s Indian connection
Joshua Clement’s film will highlight the Royal Enfield bike’s Indian connection

Lourdes Kamalini

He’s young and has a passion for bikes. Not just any bike but a Royal Enfield. So what’s new? Well, he’s expressing his enthusiasm in the form of a film.

London-based filmmaker Joshua Clement is making a feature length documentary on Royal Enfield titled Spirit of the Ride. “I want to blend the UK and Indian experiences,” he says.

The bike, with its origin in the UK, holds a heritage status in that country. “Although they have other superbikes in the UK, they still prefer the Royal Enfield because it’s their own,” he adds. In India too, the following for this bike has been on the rise.

The 34-year-old filmmaker recently filmed Rider Mania 2009 (an annual gathering of Bullet riders from around India) held in Ooty. The mood was upbeat as clubs came together for the two-day event organised this year by Rolling Thunder Motorcycling Club, Bangalore. He rode along with the 80-strong Madras Bulls contingent to capture the event. Incidentally, Madras Bulls won the ‘Best Biker Club Entry’ award at the event.

‘Individual’ value

Apart from featuring different clubs and their activities, the documentary will shed light on individuals who are not club members but still have a passion for this bike. “For instance, I am featuring a mechanic who has been servicing only Royal Enfields for over 25 years. It’s individuals like him who add more value to my project,” he says.

The young filmmaker talks about bikers in the UK for whom a weekend ride with their families, followed by camping, is an enjoyable experience. He adds, “They are very satisfied with Indian-made Royal Enfields.” The Indians have managed to keep it alive!

Past ride

Here’s how the bike found its way here. After the production of the Bullet was discontinued in the UK, the company sold its design to Enfield India, a subsidiary firm in Chennai, to manufacture them here. Initial attempts to export the Bullet back to the UK failed until 1986. The Enfield factory in Tiruvottiyur continues to churn out Bullets just the way they were made in England in the 1950s.

Clement is keen to bring out the Indian aspect of the bike, and the growing community of bikers. He says, “Clubs like Madras Bulls stress on safety and responsible riding while going on long weekend trips. They also watch out for their fellow riders.”

Staying connected

So what do the bikers have to say about Clement’s project? A senior member of Madras Bulls, T.S. Rangarajan, says, “Other filmmakers have approached us for their documentaries but Joshua has gone one step further by hanging out with us at our weekly meetings; he also rode along with us to the Rider Mania to understand our passion. Surely, this documentary would throw more light on our relationship with our bikes.”

Another Madras Bulls member, David Ebenezer, says, “This documentary would have a more Indian touch to it since the filmmaker belongs here. He can easily relate to our emotions for the bike which unites us as a club and as people.”

Mechanics

With all this passionate talk about the bike, can the technical aspect be far behind? There’s an interesting aspect about its mechanics. “In the UK, owners like to customise it according to their needs, and they do it themselves, without the help of mechanics. They believe in hands-on experience. It speaks volumes about the practicality of the bike,” he says, and contrasts that with India, where “we mostly rely on our good old mechanics for modifications or repairs”.

Despite such mindsets, the bike thrives. “Although people live in different geographical areas with diverse cultures they’re connected by a similar passion for this bike. This is what I’d like to drive home and dwell on at the end of my project,” Clement says.

Clement has worked in Bollywood films like Namaste London and in British feature films, short films and telefilms. His film production company is called Indian Summer Films. He hopes to release the documentary at the 2010 Rider Mania.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 27, 2009)
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