Why macho John Abraham is super crazy about bikes

Shockingly, John Abraham turns out to be a bit of a school teacher. So much for any misty-eyed images of a deliciously bad biker boy. Or a hero who gets his cardio-kicks by lip-synching around trees. (In a terribly macho way, of course!) Instead of breathily singing ‘Jaadu Hai Nasha Hai’ into the phone, he decides to give me a class on motorbikes.

Apparently, he got interested in them when he was very young. “I must have been about ten when I fell in love with my cousin’s bike,” he says, adding dramatically, “It was a Honda CB 750.” Alright then, and moving on… “Wait, what did I just say?” says John . “Fell in love with a Honda?” John snaps: “No. Repeat after me. Honda. C for Cat.” (Or was it Cow. Coimbatore. Cake?) “B for Bipasha.” (Fine, I made that up. Though it’s a much better example than Baltimore.) And so on.

Clearly, the Castrol Power Passion Hunt has found the ideal person to represent its search for the country’s most passionate biker. A nationwide search, the hunt has held preliminaries in nine cities, all to judge bikers by their ‘style, skill, substance and passion’. Because that’s the whole point of biking, — of course, looking hot in black leather — right? John sees biking as a personal style statement. Biker chic? “Totally. It’s happening in a big way in India now. It’s about attitude as well as attire. The way you sit. The way you look. What you wear. Just like there’s evening dressing and Friday dressing, there’s also biker dressing.”

Yet, bikes in India have traditionally been more about functionality than style. The many people who clamber on to their scooters and bikes every morning do so more to get to work in the morning than to flex biker biceps. John agrees that most Indian bikers tend to view their machines as practical transport rather than a flamboyant hobby. “That’s why an advertisement such as Hero Honda’s ‘fill it, shut it, forget it’ was so popular,” he says, referring to the campaign in the 1980s. “Only now commercials on bikes use the passion aspect.” This shift, he states, is all thanks to “Dhoom”.

Even if he does say so himself. “In India ‘Dhoom’ is the only reason bikes became fashionable… something cool.” John believes that what popular culture needs now is “more films with automobiles – such as ‘The Fast and The Furious’. Kids like those… And they’re good fun to do.”

Movies and bikes have an interesting relationship worldwide. Thanks to groups such as the Hells Angels, motorcycle gangs tend to conjure up images of lawlessness. Yet, despite the powerful image of a biker rumbling past on his Harley Davidson, bristling with fierce tattoos, black leather and a ferocious handlebar moustache, in India’s popular culture, guys on big bikes are irresistible bad boys.

“I think it’s because bikes are associated with rebellion,” says John, adding “Youngsters do crazy things on their motor bikes. In ‘Dhoom’ also (notice subtle movie plug two) the bad guy is always on the bike.” John adds with the chuckle: “The good guy sits in a car. The good guy is careful and wants to protect himself!” Gasp. The loser! So, why is the privileged set beginning to show an interest in bikes now? “Well, how much does a bike cost?” asks John. Um… “What! You don’t know?” he exclaims. (Clearly journalists are expected to be able to double as bike salesmen if they plan to get ahead in life.)

Fortunately, he’s a compassionate stud muffin, and obligingly furnishes the exact answer — “One lakh. Well, 1,25,000. And… if it’s bigger, about Rs. 12.5 lakh on road.” Pick a number. Get on a bike. Be the bad guy. Or at least the cool guy. Because, to quote John: “if you’re not living on the edge, you’re just wasting space.”

SHONALI MUTHALALY

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