Draped across the shoulders of our nation lie the Himalayas. Born when tectonic plates collided with each other millions of years ago, the Himalayas have always been the object of fascination. Home to some incredibly unique cultures and landscapes, they remain our sentinels to the north, acting as a natural border to the Indian subcontinent. To top it all off, they have become a sort of motoring Mecca; people from every corner of the globe flock here to meet the challenge that mountain roads have set.
Despite the innumerable motorbiking expeditions that taken place through the Himalayas, video documentations of these journeys have been poor at best, spurring 4 young men from Chennai to take up this cause. They mounted their Enfield Bullets and began their 43-day endeavour to capture the magic of riding in the Himalayas. At the end of this adventure, they returned from the mountains triumphant, with a full-fledged motorbiking documentary in hand. This, the culmination of their sweat and tears, they called ‘Send it, Upwards’.
A little more than a year down the line, they are now organized as The Standard Images Company, in the hope of creating more authentic productions like this one.
Why Send It Upwards? Where did the name come from?
“Send It” started as a slang, it was our way of saying – pass it or move it along; for getting things done. It’s called Send It “Upwards”, because if you are coastal folk from the south, you’d need to head ‘upwards’ on the map of India to get to the Himalayas. Not to the best origin story, but it’s our own.
How many were involved and what are their regular roles in life?
R: Arjun was an import/export manager at a multinational sports company and then went on to work at an advertising startup. I was shooting commercial photo assignments, and had just about started playing with video. Nishanth worked at a production house before working on the film ‘Life of Pi’ as a locations assistant. Tapass is a full time musician who plays close to 200 gigs a year with a whole bunch of bands, and on movies as well. Arjun is now the Executive Producer at The Standard Images Company, with Nishanth as Director and Ravikiran Vissa as DOP. Tapass is a full-time musician.
How did you guys come to meet? Where did the urge to go out and create come from individually?
A: I met Nishanth & Tapass in school, a long time back! Some of our school friends ended up in the same engineering college, and that’s how I met Ravi. Through my school/college days and beyond, I grew up on a steady diet of great movies and music. When it comes to the urge of creation, I’m a product of what I’ve watched and heard, and that motivates me to make sure that my “creation” is something that I’d love to consume myself.
R: I went to college with everyone that Nishanth, Arjun and Tapass went to school with. There was a point when everyone was forming bands left, right and centre – we just ended up hanging out for a good 10 years now. I was completely sold on the idea of travelling and shooting with no client breathing down your neck. I didn’t need any convincing.
N: Tapass, Arjun and I went to school together and Ravi went to college with some friends of ours from school. We’ve known each other for a long time now, and we had each set off on our own creative paths; experimenting and exploring our respective crafts. A year prior to this trip – Ravi, Tapass and I collaborated on a short documentary – that gave us the courage to further our experiments.
What was the kernel of the idea? Where did it come from? There must have been something about the trail that attracted you. What was that?
A: Ravi & Tapass already rode to Ladakh once in 2013 – they’d experienced something that they’d tried describing to the rest of us when they got back. But it was of no use; you really have to ride to the Himalayas yourself to experience it. However, descriptions were all you had to rely on because there wasn’t a single, well-shot motorcycle documentary about Ladakh – this Mecca of motorcycling…sacrilege! So we decided to make one.
N: The Himalayas; snow-capped peaks and unending twisty roads. When we realised that the funding we had wasn’t enough for Send It Sideways – we had to pick a place that all 4 of us truly wanted to explore. We each had our preferences, but the collective decision was to go to the Himalayas. It was a combination of wanting to experience the unknown paired with a touch of knowing what to expect.
R: I’ve always wanted to go to Ladakh, and that too on a bike. I’d done the trail in 2013 but this time it had to be on a Royal Enfield – because Royal Enfield and Ladakh just go hand in hand. It is the number-one item on any Bulleteer’s bucket list. I didn’t get to shoot much the first time I was there – this made it all the more exciting for me – I wanted to get there and film this incredible place, and hopefully it would translate to the viewer in the way I was experiencing it myself.
Now tell us about your Exodus, the great journey that follows a collective vision. Why does the world need to hear your story?
A: Our story, while definitely exciting and adventurous, isn’t groundbreaking or extraordinary. It’s about travel, which is a choice for most of us…sometimes a luxury. Personally, it’s important to me, as it greatly contributes towards awareness and self-growth. The world needs to hear our story only because there is no visually-striking motorcycle documentary on the Himalayas yet…believe me, I was looking for a story like this, but it wasn’t there!
N: It has been over a year since we completed our trip, and we are all still processing all the information and combined experiences – trying to make sense of it for an audience who does not know us. Our story isn’t for everyone. That is the honest truth. It is for those inclined to hear a good travel tale, because, who doesn’t love a good story of friendship and adventure, filled with new and alien sights and sounds.
Riding and travelling is a break from misery, then? Why is it a temporary state with us? Why start a film company when you could just travel and do more of this? Why choose to blend passions?
A: It’s not either/or in my case. It’s more like, neither would I travel full-time for the rest of my life, nor would I be involved only in film-making. I prefer to do it all, and balance my passions so that I don’t get bored. I think it’s important to keep travel as a temporary state because I like the idea of setting off on an adventure as well as coming back home. I wouldn’t even know the difference if I were travelling permanently.
N: Filmmaking facilitated this trip; we couldn’t have raised funds or sponsorships for this trip if we didn’t have anything to offer from our travels. We haven’t stopped travelling, my day job as a filmmaker, affords me my travels and lately, travel has become part of the job too! This trip ended with the 4 of us deciding to work together; we shoot across India now. This journey set us up for that, and I am most grateful.
What are your inspirations? The beatniks wandered through the wilderness hoping to find answers. What is your state of mind in urban centers, why is there change and perspective only when you venture out?
A: The beatnik generation was lucky – they weren’t permanently connected! Personally, when there is a disconnect from work and commitments while travelling, I feel as if my mind’s moving from a pressure cooker to a sauna – the temperature doesn’t change that much, but everything is more leisurely. And when I get back, that state of leisure and calmness continues for a few more months, and the cycle repeats.
Over the next two weeks, TheVibe will continue to interview the members of The Standard Images Company about their experiences on the road and to understand what it took to make this documentary. Keep your eyes peeled for our following installments.