House fuel

Bipasha Basu may look like a bong-shell (that is a Bengali bombshell for you). But she knows the price of vegetables and petrol. So, post the petrol-hike, she has decided to buy herself a bike. No, not the kind her ex-boyfriend John Abraham is seen vrooming by in. The bicycle wins Bip’s vote. Says Bipasha, “I am definitely thinking of alternate modes of transport beyond my cars. In fact, I was just thinking of buying myself a bicycle. The fact that I haven’t yet learnt how to drive motivates me even further to use non-petro modes of transportation, especially for shorter distances. That would be fun and good exercise too.”

I like that bicycle

Pedal power: Bipasha Basu

¬†Yet, if you ask most Bollywood stars the cost of a litre of petrol you might get blank stares (huh?) in return. Most big stars own a fleet of fancy cars parked under their homes, with little or no knowledge of where the petrol comes from. But for reasons other than saving money, many of them have been resorting to ‘go green’ transportation.

Cycle ki sawari: Fans reach to touch Bollywood actor Salman Khan as he prepares to ride a bicycle before the start of the inaugural Tour de Mumbai Cyclothon in Mumbai on February 21, 2010. Pic/AFP

Some months ago, one saw director Imtiaz Ali and his leading man Ranbir Kapoor hop into a three-wheeler with a battery of photographers behind them to capture this stupendous ode to going plebian. Says a somewhat cynical filmmaker, “All this travelling by autos and cycling down highways with photographers in hot pursuit, is nothing but a publicity gimmick. One recently read a report that Katrina Kaif hopped in an auto to catch an early-morning flight when her driver played truant. As for Imtiaz Ali in an auto, if he travels by auto quite frequently, as he claims, why were there photographers around when he got into a rickshaw with Ranbir? Could it have something to do with their film Rockstar being released at that time?”

Salman Khan has been seen cycling around his home in Bandra, oblivious to the hordes of fans and oglers. Recently Shah Rukh Khan tried the same two-wheeled exercise with his children. As the Khan parivar cycled, traffic on the roads came to a standstill, with hundreds of fans opting to follow them. Even if stars want to be eco-friendly, they cannot. They do not know how to. And even if they do, they can’t step out of their homes with their conservation plans. It is in the movies that the ‘aam junta’ gets to see stars economizing on fuel. In Mani Ratnam’s Saathiya, the romance between Vivek Oberoi and Rani Mukherjee was conducted on local trains. Earlier on, in Basu Chatterjee’s Rajnigandha and Chhoti Si Baat, Amol Palekar and Vidya Sinha got to know one another in Mumbai’s BEST buses.

Lately, very few Hindi films have shown stars resorting to transportation other than swish cars. In Habib Faizal’s, Do Dooni Chaar, Rishi Kapoor rode a scooter throughout but dreamt of owning a car. In Rumi Jaffrey’s political satire, Gali Gali Mein Chor Hai, Akshaye Khanna rode around on a rickety scooter. Audiences didn’t think much of the plebian mode of transport for their hero. The film bombed. Says Jaffrey, “Somehow the concept of the hero as a common man doesn’t ricochet with the audience any longer. In the past, Rajesh Khanna and Amol Palekar repeatedly played guys next door in successful films like Rajnigandha and Anand. They wore pyjama-kurtas and rode buses and scooters. Nowadays, the heroes have to be larger than life.”

It is unlikely we will get to see Salman Khan cycling in a film. Or Shah Rukh Khan using public transport to travel. In real life, though, some of them display a fair amount of conscientiousness about petrol conservation. Says Neha Dhupia, “I’ve always been fond of cycling, because I’m conscious of fitness and the environment. The hike in petrol prices is not just about transport. It affects the consumer in every way possible. We will be paying a heavy price for this hike.”

Jackie Shroff’s young, athletic son Tiger adds, “Even if petrol was cheaper, I would prefer cycling. It’s good for the environment and me. Also because of heavy traffic cycling gets you around faster. But my mom doesn’t let me move around on a cycle.” Says Sonu Sood, “I was always cycling. I tried to convince my friends to do the same. Now they’ve no choice but to follow me.” Neetu Chandra who is athletic by nature says, “I prefer to cycle. Considering the petrol price, my car would end up in a museum. Maybe instead of car loans people should apply in banks for petrol loans.”

Filmmaker-actor Amole Gupte has been walking if he can, for health reasons. “Now I have no choice,” he says. With old lines between formula and art films practically non-existent, a new genre of film is slick, contemporary and very much like urban life itself. Maybe, a filmmaker would show the new reality, people worrying about petrol prices, looking at public transportation and even car pooling as an option. And, songs like mujhko bhi lift kara de would be replaced by mujhko bhi lift dila de and motorbike and car chases replaced by cycle chases.

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