Hit The Roads of India with Mumbai Xpress
Think about traveling for 12 continuous days in the hot climate of India on an auto-rickshaw, through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, to participate in Mumbai Xpress (a auto-rickshaw rally which is recognized by the Lonely Planet as one of the top ten greatest adventures in the world). That’s where we are taking you today with Gor Baghdasaryan, the director of movie ‘Hit The Road India‘, a documentary following two friends who are participating in Mumbai Xpress.
Hello Gor, before going into the details of the movie, please introduce yourself to our readers. How did you get into film making? When did you start and what initially sparked your interest in this field.
I started making films when I was 13-14 years old, while being a student at Manana Youth Center – a media education center in Armenia. I started with making 1-minute-long videos and from that period I knew for sure I want to be a filmmaker. In 2009 me and my brother Mushegh started a film studio, Manana Films (the name was a tribute to Manana Center, where we both found our passion to cinema), and that’s where we work up to date.
Can you briefly tell us the synopsis of the movie?
Hit The Road: India is a travel adventure documentary about two friends – Ric Gazarian from Chicago and Keith King from Newfoundland participating in a 12-day-long rickshaw rally across India, from Mumbai to Chennai, recognized by Lonely Planet as one of the top-10 greatest adventures in the world. Hit The Road: India is a mixture of a reality show, travelogue and adventure movie. We were following Ric and Keith from day 1 of the race to the finish, capturing all the adventures they encountered during this journey.
What or who was your inspiration beyond this project?
Mushegh and me were thinking of making an adventure documentary for already a couple of years before this film. But we weren’t big fans of the typical adventure documentaries you usually see on TV-s – with tons of narration and long interviews. We wanted to make something closer to reality shows – a pure observational documentary where you follow the characters like you are actually travelling with them. I’m sure if Hit The Road: India was a TV-sponsored initiative, we would never have the freedom to experiment like this. One day Ric Gazarian from Chicago, our old friend who we knew from Manana Youth Center, where he was volunteering when we were still students, told me about a rickshaw rally that takes place in India, and said he’s planning to participate in it. That’s when we realized it’s a perfect match for the adventure film we wanted to make.
What movies/films have you made before?
At Manana Films we make creative documentaries and short films, as well as we make promotional films for different organizations and companies. Our latest feature-length documentary was Neighbors – a film about people of two villages in Armenia and Turkey, situated next to each other, but divided by a closed border of these two countries.
Although the studio is 4 years old, we already have a large list of international awards and nominations, both in cinema and advertising sphere.
What are the challenges you faced during this project. How were you able to over come them?
The whole project itself was a huge challenge, starting from raising funds to produce it, to the time when we started distributing the film. One of the biggest challenges, of course, was the filming itself; we had 12 days (the duration of the rally) to shoot the film, and the crew consisted of only me and Mushegh. It was extremely intense, as we were filming almost 24 hours, while being constantly on the road, trying to survive the non-stop monsoon rains, machine breakdowns and insane traffic. In addition to all that, this was a rally, which means every minute was counted, and most of the time the shootings reminded of changing the tires during a Formula 1 race. It was one of the most physically and mentally exhausting experiences we went through.
What do you think of India? I have heard all sorts of reactions. Some say, its a magical place and some people say it could never get worse as it does in India.
India was the most unique place I ever visited, it is like no other country. Unfortunately, a trip like ours was not the best way to see the country; although we saw a bit of everything, most of the time we were speeding through the country like a comet. The shooting process was so intense we weren’t able to enjoy the trip itself as much. Besides, the rally was in July-August, during the monsoon season, and it was a brutal experience – the ice-cold pouring rain wouldn’t stop for 70-80 hours, and would restart after a five minute break. Sometimes the rain was getting so loud we couldn’t over-shout it to hear each other. So, I’ll definitely would like to visit India again in a more relaxed way.
What was your favorite moment in India? What was the worst?
One of the favorite moments was the first sight of Mumbai when we arrived. I felt like a spec of sand in a enormous boiling city. Although I’ve been to different big cities, Mumbai was so hectic I felt like a helpless child sometimes, but it felt great at the same time.
Although it may sound strange but the other great moment was a one-day break we took in Goa in the middle of the rally – all the teams had a day off, and we could sleep and dry our clothes, and it felt like heaven.
The worst moment was getting arrested by the police in a small village, where we were detained in a police station for half of the day.
Would you mind telling us which equipment you used for this movie?
We tried to use as little equipment as possible, to make it easier working with a crew of only two people. We were using two Canon DSLR-s as main cameras, and two GoPros attached to the rickshaw. One of them was capturing everything happening in the rickshaw. We had mikes attached inside to capture the live dialogues of Ric and Keith when they were driving. We were recording the rest of the audio with a boom mike and a Zoom H4N audio recorder. Besides, we used different small gears such as Gecko camera mount to attach cameras to car windshield, a GlideCam stabilizer, portable screens to monitor the cameras while being in the car, etc.
What is you advice for adventure travel film makes? Some tips or tricks of the trade.
The whole project was a learning process for ourselves, too, as this was our first experience in adventure film. But my advice to others is to work in a small crew. 2-man crew might be too little, but a 3-4-man crew will let you be faster, more mobilized and efficient. Fortunately, the technology is getting relatively affordable and mobile; I’m sure 5 years ago we couldn’t even dream of shooting a film of this scale with just two people. The technologies helped us to stay independent, too; although we had a tiny budget and no TV contracts or distribution deals, the film made it to top-5 documentaries in UK and was a bestselling sports film on iTunes in USA and Canada. Vimeo announced it ‘An amazing adventure’, and Vanity Fair called it ‘A must-see for travelers’.
What are you future goals? And where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Right now we’re already working on the second episode of Hit The Road, with the same characters participating in a rally in a different country – unfortunately, I can’t give out the details yet, but hopefully we’ll announce it officially later this year. The film is planned to be released in Summer 2015. All I can say now is that it’s going to be bigger and much crazier. Other than that, we have other exciting projects in development, including more adventures and travels. Our main goal for now and for years to come is to make interesting and exciting films for people to see.
For more information on the movie, visit the website Hit The Road India and to connect visit their Facebook page. You can instantly download the movie on Amazon, purchase the DVD on Amazon or watch it on iTunes.