Rishi Majumder directs an unlikely play to celebrate Himesh Reshammiya’s stupendous success: this includes Himesh, the President of the Bombay Auto Rickshaw Union, and a confused autowallah

Photographer: Rana Chakraborty

Himesh Reshammiya and Thampi Kurien with an unknown autowallah's auto...

Himesh Reshammiya and Thampi Kurien with an unknown autowallah's auto...


Himesh Reshammiya: Playing self

Thampi Kurien: Playing self Kurien is the ‘Working President’ of the Bombay Auto Rickshaw Union. Formed in 1983, the union has been responsible for moves ranging from effecting fare increases to fighting for the autowallah’s designated areas. Official figures apart, the number of autos plying in Mumbai has been estimated at 1,00,000, a vital votebank. Add to that President Sharad Rao’s political clout.

Unknown Autowallah: Playing self. No introduction needed

Over 36 hit tracks in 2006, Filmfare, IIFA and Zee Cine awards, and a monthly controversy. Reshammiya continues as Bollywood’s most loved-hated figure. His urban image is well summed on Orkut, with an ‘I love Himesh Reshammiya’ community, an ‘I hate Himesh Reshammiya’ community, an ‘I hate those who hate Himesh Reshammiya’ community and, well, it goes on. In his acting debut Aap Ka Surroor – The Real Love Story too, he plays himself.

His music is heard everywhere, but blaring auto stereos remain the common culprit. For Aap Ka Suroor, six auto rickshaws were flown into Germany for a shoot. The promos show three desi auto rickshaws bang onto swank foreign wheels. The drivers then confront adversaries approximately five feet taller. Cut to Reshammiya doing a solemn salute.




With Kurien and Reshammiya here, we hail an auto rickshaw in for the shoot.
Do you know Himesh Reshammiya?
Unknown Autowallah (UA): No?


The Bombay Auto Rickshaw Drivers Union?
UA: No?

Jhalak Dikhlaaja?

UA (grins): Haan!
But you don’t know Himesh Reshammiya?

UA (stops grinning): Listen, it’s time for dhanda now. Where do you want to go?
Himesh Reshammiya (HR): We’re only doing a shoot?
No, we want text.
HR: A quote?

No, it’s a one-pager. You and Mr Kurien.
HR: An ‘in conv e r s a t i o n with’? Okay, but listen, if people speak too much about an issue it sounds stupid. I don’t want to sound stupid.


The aut o w a l l a h lets us use his vehicle for the shoot, and Reshammiya speaks…
Thampi Kurien (TK):So saab, we have our union’s silver jubilee anniversary coming along in 2008. Will you perform?
HR: Sure.
TK: So what made you do this tribute?
HR: It was my brother, friend and director Prashant Chaddha’s baby. (pauses) I want to say here that I think the film will be a super hit, and Prashant one of the country’s number one directors! He thought autowallahs have been with us right from Tere Naam and Aashiq to Jhalak and Surroor or even Just chill. Even when I changed my music to modern, Sufi rock… or whatever… they stayed loyal.
TK: But saab, why take them to Germany???
HR: The logic will be explained when you watch the film…
TK: We auto wallahs have a distinct taste in music. But when it comes to our stereos, we play what the passenger demands. And mostly, even if we switch to something else, the passenger tells us to switch back to your music.
HR: That’s why what plays in an auto is no different from what DJs play in the clubs, music of a ‘universal sensibility’. But it’s great because autos are what the common man rides. An auto ride is the five to twenty minute ‘stop gap’ in between all the happiness, sadness and tension a person goes through. So the music they choose to hear then matters.
UA: Are you done?


HR: I think important issues for autowallahs would be petrol price hikes, fare increases and traffic problems. But we’ll have to ask autowallahs themselves for the real issues…
TK: I’ll list the most crucial. Fare increase is correct. In Thane the minimum fare is Rs 10, whereas here it’s still Rs 9.
Reshammiya receives a phone call and leaves to answer it
TK: We need more auto stands, especially in Andheri. Private buses have started taking individual passengers, which is not allowed. They can only provide services on chartered basis…
UA: Listen, I wan’t my money! And I want to leave! How much longer?
TK: Arre kya yaar! Ek minute. Finally, we need CNG gas stations, and access to certain areas in near Sion, which though ours is restricted by the police.
Reshammiya’s back
TK: You know, autowallahs have for a long time been immortalized in movies. Rajnikanth, Shankar Nag and Mohanlal in the south, and Mithun Chakraborthy here have all played autowallahs to procure hits. Would you do the same?
HR: I’m a believer of destiny. If destined… why not?


HR: God must have given Mumbai something to make it the ‘dream city’. It’s Mumbai’s destiny. All I can say.
TK: All I can say too. Bhagwaan ne hi kuch diya hoga.
Reshammiya gets another call…
But I know a lot of people including me, who wouldn’t come all the way here to drive all day, if we had opportunities back home.
Reshammiya’s back
TK: Because we don’t, there’s an influx of people, and a boosting auto licence demand. Like the entertainment industry — so many strugglers coming…
HR: My advice to anyone coming into this industry is believe in destiny, God and originality. Have thorough knowledge of your subject, and take your parent’s advice before coming here. There’s hard work, but without a divine force to inspire me and the viewpoint of thousands, I wouldn’t have made it… Listen, please make a statement that everyone should come and watch this film?
TK: Yes. Everyone should! And, once again, you’ll perform at our anniversary no? You said yes.
Another phone call. UA has found a passenger and left… in a huff.

This article appeared originally in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India:  http://alturl.com/38vz


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