TRUST GREGORY Roberts to spring a surprise. This time on Hollywood actor Johnny Depp. The bestselling author plans to present Depp with a very special motorbike that he has modified himself. Depp will ride this bike in the film based on Roberts's book, Shantaram. The shooting starts next year and Depp plays the role of Shantaram in the film. Once the shooting is over, the author will give Depp the bike for good.
Modifying bikes has long been one of Roberts's passions. At Happy Cycles, a tiny roadside shop on Pasta Lane, Colaba, the writer, along with Abdul Mohammed, the 60-year-old owner of the shop, have been modifying old bikes (especially old Enfield Bullets) for a while now. The profits from sales go to the Shantaram Trust for tuberculosis that Roberts has set up.
There are quite a few gleaming examples of his work outside the shop. The green Enfield Bullet 350 meant for Depp is kept safe from Mumbai's monsoon in a small godown on Pasta Lane. Depp is a bike fanatic.
"He's ridden a lot Triumphs and BSAs, but an Enfield Bullet is something Johnny is really excited about. You don't get too many of them abroad," Roberts says.
What exactly has he done with the bike? "We have bored out the head to make way for twin silencers on either side, for that deep Bullet rumble from the exhaust," Roberts says. This 1985 beauty has high, pulled-back handlebars for that armchair comfort. "And we have chromed it wherever we could," he adds.
The seats have been lowered and adorned with hand-stitched leather that's been riveted on the saddle. The package wraps up with extra wide tyres front and back and a disc brake up front for safety.