Jan Turnovec and Ondrej Kaspar made a hell of an original bicycle touring trip through Pakistan and India with their Grank Trunk Road Nomad Cinema project. They cycled for four months between Peshawar in Pakistan to Calcutta in India on a freight rickshaw – carrying a mobile Cinema. They followed the fabled Grand Trunk Road – the ancient trade route connecting Kabul and Calcutta. In the process they covered over 1200 km and every night they unpacked their nomad cinema for the screenings of fairytales for little kids and Bollywood hits or action blockbusters for the adults.
The Grand Trunk Road is one of Asia‘s oldest and longest major roads. For more than two millennia, it has linked the eastern and western regions of the Indian subcontinent, connecting South Asia with Central Asia. It runs from Chittagong, Bangladesh west to Howrah, West Bengal in India, across north India into Peshawar in Pakistan, up to Kabul, Afghanistan. Its former names include UttaraPatha (“Northern Road”), Shah Rah-e-Azam (“Great Road”) or Sadak-e-Azam or Badshahi Sadak.
Travelling across India and Pakistan is strenuous even for regular tourists. And on an Elephant named Tara even more.
Deciding to take a nomad mobile cinema along for the ride, not in a car but on a pedal tricycle, Jan Turnovec and Ondrej Kaspar wanted to feel and experience the countries and bring movies to the people. Between Peshawar and Calcutta they pedaled during the day and screened movies each night using the slogan: “Poor people very welcome. Free tickets for everyone. Unlimited capacity. Special show every Sunday”
After arriving in Peshawar, local complications made that they couldn’t start their project over there. They hence hopped on a train and moved the starting point to Varanasi, several hundred miles down the Grand Trunk Road.
Once there, Turnovec and Kaspar first had to find a suitable rickshaw bike, movie screening equipment and a generator to power it all. At their Pir Wadhai base camp they managed to get all this: a Sohrab tricycle (originally a popcorn wallah vehicle), a Power generator, a normal Eagle bicycle, a screening sheet and a metal box for the equipment. Subsequently the Mobile cinema was successfully tested in a calm street in front of their hotel.
Check out what they carried on their cycle rickshaw. Things marked in red flew with us from Europe. The rest in brown was acquired in Asia.
Then the cycling could start and the guys hit the road.
“The dirt roads, the horns of the overtaking trucks, the fog, the cold, the rain. Buttocks stuck to the seats, the speed limited by the state of the road and the remaining strength. The attention of the natives wherever they go, facing the countless technical problems with their bikes or their projectors. This expedition truly wasn’t a vacation, it was a true movie mission.”
“The cinema sometimes wasn’t even a big attraction for slum children living in huts made of plastic bags equipped with massive satellites and hundreds of channels, and new iPhones ringing in their pockets.”
“We pedaled, sweat blood or on the contrary, froze our fingers as the temperature only hit 8°C, broke our chains, cursed the Pakistani bicycles… then at around four in the afternoon we would start searching for a suitable movie screening spot: tents, huts or flat spots where kids play cricket. Ideally with a large wall. Even though the children were nice indeed, they didn’t hesitate to pick our bikes apart, as we encountered multiple times. The move screening spot logically had to be reachable on our tricycle but we developed a keen eye for that during the trip. We could exactly see how some spots are flawed, while others were perfect.” report both impresarios.
Once the boys reached Calcutta they decided to continue a bit more all the way to Puri at the Bay of Bengal. The total distance travelled by bikes was 1230km (550 km (Puri–Kolkata), 680 km (Kolkata–Varanasi)
After all this cycling they got quite attached to their Sohrab tickshaw tricycles so initially they tried to raise money for the transport back to Europe. However as this failed they sold their equipment before returning home to the Czech Republic.
The guys documented their entire adventure in a self-shot 13 episode documentary series. Unfortunately it is all in Czech. However, to get a general idea of their kickass journey it is worth having a look at episode 5 (On The Road) and episode 6 (Screening every Evening) below.
A full fletched documentary is in the makings so stay tuned.