Benita Chacko

Country Roads take Royal Enfield ‘Home’; to the Himalayas by the Himalayan

The motorcycling brand is out with a long-form film shot in Ladakh. We chat with Aiman Ali, director of the film - ‘Home’ - about the experience.

Snow-capped mountains, a serene lake, and a long, narrow road finally leading ‘Home’. These are the visuals that greet us towards the beginning of a new film. The film ‘Home’ was originally conceived to tell the story of two sisters, who are meeting after a long time. It has now become Royal Enfield Himalayan's brand film.

“When I started writing, I wanted to write a story about two sisters, who are meeting after a long time. The idea was to make something beautiful that would touch people's souls. When you're going to the Himalayas to shoot a story about a girl, who's going back home and she's using a bike, we felt it had to be a Royal Enfield Himalayan. It's the Himalayan bike’s home. So, that's how it came into the picture,” says Aiman Ali, the film's director.

“When Royal Enfield saw this film, they felt this is what Royal Enfield Himalayan stands for. This is the feeling of riding the bike, and that feeling comes through in the film.”

Conceptualised and executed by Coconut Films, ‘Home’ was then taken up by Royal Enfield. The film is the story of a girl, who’s returning home to meet her sister after she’s given birth to a baby. It follows her journey through Ladakh on a motorcycle. At the heart of it lies the message that ‘Going the distance is not about how far away you will get, but from what length you’re willing to return’.

Aiman Ali
Aiman Ali

“Though it's the story of a girl going back home and touching base with her roots, there is also a nature angle here, which talks about how we, humans, have forgotten our roots. That was our introspection throughout the film. Through that quote, we ponder if going that distance could sometimes mean going back to our roots. And that's what our protagonist does in the film,” Ali mentions.

He says that it was a conscious choice to have a female rider from the story’s point of view as he wanted to portray the story of a girl returning home.

Shot in the beautiful locales of Ladakh, the film probably gives us the last glimpses of the pre-pandemic era. The creative discussions for the film started in November 2019. It was shot in February 2020 - barely a month before COVID hit India. Despite that, it holds more relevance now.

“We thought of this concept before the pandemic struck. But now, I feel, in the midst of a pandemic, it hits the right spot and is very relevant for the time we are living in. It's just a coincidence, but in these testing times, this is the message that we really need to send out to the world,” says Ali.

The pandemic also delayed the release of the film by over a year. “We were supposed to finish the post-production by the end of April last year. However, with the (COVID-induced) lockdown by mid-March, everything came to a halt. We faced hurdles at every step. Finally, we finished it in January this year,” says Tushar Raut, co-founder, Coconut Films.

Tushar Raut
Tushar Raut

“The film was to be released three months ago. But then the second (COVID) wave hit. We then felt that things aren't really good at the moment and everybody's in a very different frame of mind. So, we decided to release it when everything settles down and people are in a better state of mind,” Raut adds.

They would start shooting before dawn, when the temperatures were around minus 17 degrees. Their camera batteries would freeze.

The film was intentionally shot during Ladakh's harsh winter season. “We wanted to portray the rough terrain and the harshness of the place. It is so difficult to survive it, yet we find such a peaceful and content community there. That really fascinated me. That's why we chose winter,” says Ali.

The winter mornings served another purpose. They helped visually amplify the protagonist’s mood. “As she’s coming back, she’s reminiscing about her home and there are a lot of memories in her mind. I wanted to amplify this introspective mood. We did that visually through these really moody images that we shot early in the morning. So, it's literally the character’s introspection that we wanted to bring out visually,” he explains.

However, this also brought about several logistical challenges. They would start shooting before dawn, when the temperatures were around minus 17 degrees. Their camera batteries would freeze. Moving from one location to another added to the challenge. Ali sums it up as a "logistical mammoth to tackle".

Before the shoot, they conducted a recce for 10 days as they didn’t want to shoot in regular places. Moreover, even the film’s cast are real people in their real homes. In fact, even the lullaby towards the end of the film is sung by Ladakhi women.

Narrating the story behind it, Ali reveals, “We were shooting the sequence where the protagonist comes to meet her sister. We asked the ladies gathered there to sing something for the baby, and they sang this lullaby. This is again something that comes from their roots and is familiar to all Ladakhis.”

“We thought we can record these ladies. So, we took them to another room and recorded it. Now, it has become the theme of the whole film. It is not something that can be found in a recording studio. This is something that comes from that land,” he signs off.