From the crowded streets of Delhi to the long motorways going through Jaipur, from gate crashing a wedding to interacting with the poorest Indian family, CNBC’s new show India on 4 Wheels is a visual treat that takes you on a road trip showcasing India’s facets and how the booming car industry has changed the country and the lives of its people. Hosts Anita Rani and Justin Rowlatt add flavour to this journey as they interact with people from dissimilar backgrounds. They start off in Delhi and aim to make it to their final destination, the Chennai port, in a matter of three weeks.
The show starts off with the two picking cars to suit two distinctly divergent routes. Rowlatt, who is to take the ‘kaccha roads’ to explore rural India opts for a sturdy second hand ambassador car which needs some repair work, while Rani travels along the highways on a top of the line Mahindra Bolero, to get a taste of urban India. Understandably, Rowlatt is in for more than just a bumpy ride. It’s not long before the heat and traffic starts getting to him as he honks his way through the crowded streets of Delhi. “You can’t just walk in front of cars!” he fumes at erant pedestrians. Welcome to India, we want to say. He gets a taste of disaster too, as the windshield of the crew car following his car gets smashed by a peacock!
It’s not all dust and grime though. Later in the episode, Rowlatt gatecrashes an unexpectedly grand wedding at a local hotel and joins in the dancing and festivities. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, as he also witnesses a funeral at Varanasi and inspite of being taken aback, takes in the lesson in Hindu philosophy that a pandit gives him. “Death is the universal truth. If you are accepting life, why should you be terrified about death?” the Pandit says.
How can a foreigner’s trip to India be complete without a visit to the Taj Mahal? Rowlatt completes the cliché by visiting Agra, and enquiring about the wellbeing of the monument. Rani, on the other hand, is invited to visit the erstwhile Maharana of Udaipur at his palace. He shows her his antique collection of cars and points out his favourite, which has been in the royal family for about 70 years. Rani asks him if the increasing ability of more people to buy cars affects the traditional Indian class divide. To which the Maharana explains, “The class divide was always there and will always be there.” Very well, but that’s not the answer we were looking for.
Towards the end of the episode, Rowlatt visits the Kumars, a poor farmer family out in the countryside that finds it difficult to make ends meet. Raj Kumar has 22 members in his family and says that one third of an acre isn’t enough to feed them.
Although the episode lays out a very well edited piece with good use of music and graphics to support the visuals, there’s nothing uniquely different about this show. Just like any other travel show whose foreign hosts traverse India, this show too features clichés of them interacting with street children, and the myriad facets of India.
India On 4 Wheels premieres on September 20, on History TV18 and on September 22, on CNBC TV18 at 9.30 pm