MUMBAI: Journeying around the world took 80 days in the Jules Verne classic but three Mumbai boys, Omkar Divekar, Samarth Mahajan and Rajat Bhargava, went around India in 17 days in unreserved compartments of 10 trains.
During the journey spanning 25,000-odd km, they spoke to over a 100 people on subjects as varied as religion and love, career and ambition. They captured their conversations with a Canon 5D DSLR camera and returned to the city with close to 45 hours of footage. This has now been edited into an hour-long feature documentary, The Unreserved, which premieres on YouTube channel Camera And Shorts on February 15.
A Camera And Shorts production, The Unreserved was inspired by Jagriti Yatra (journey of social awakening), an initiative by NGO Jagriti Sewa Sansthan. Jagriti Yatra takes youngsters on an annual 15-day train journey across 8,000-odd kilometres to expose them to grassroots reality.
Initially, the trio thought of doing just the longest journey in India: the 85-hour-long Dibrugarh-Kanniyakumari stretch on the Vivek Express, but decided to be more ambitious by going to the farthest point in each direction that the Indian Railways could take them to. They travelled from Mumbai to Okha in Gujarat in the west, then to Delhi and Jammu. From Jammu, they drove to Banihal, where they took the Banihal-Baramulla train, the farthest to the north. They returned to Jammu and Delhi and then headed to Dibrugarh in the northeast. From there, it was all the way to Kanniyakumari in the south, and then to Thiruvananthapuram before returning to Mumbai.
The journey, which began in March last year, got much traction on Twitter thanks to their regular tweets. However, the charm is not in the details and nitty-gritties of travel, but in the conversations they were able to strike, and shoot, with complete strangers.
“It wasn’t about places as about the people,” says Divekar. Far from finding their camera intrusive, people across regions, religions, caste and class divides opened up and told compelling stories, the strongest of which have been strung together in the film. The most heart-warming, of course, are those about love, like this guy in Kashmir talking about how a girl seals her commitment for you by accepting the mobile you gift her. Interestingly, he claims to have gifted mobile phones to not one but three women.