The first outliers of mist brings along a sense of foreboding. We’re all packed to visit the sets of the second edition of
MTV Stunt Mania
, but it just won’t stop raining.
Even the production crew is now restive to get on with the shoot, but the visibility is poor, and traversing 52 km uphill to Rohtang isn’t feasible. On this show, the climb would be an added challenge. But it’s the cameras that will underperform, definitely not the contestants.
Rebels with a Cause
The contestants stay in Ground Zero — an open field off the main road to Manali. Their rooms are at the periphery of a large, circular expanse of tarmac, and across from it is a shed where Allan Amin, the stunt guru, holds eliminations.
The stunt maniacs look like a clique of social outcasts. Like angst-ridden rebels, they use graffiti generously — some say they like “bikes over babes”, while others say they love stunting. Yet, despite all their swagger, even the slightest act of rebellion, like using a cell phone, can land them in big trouble. Amidst all that high-altitude tranquillity, the stunting action offers a startling contrast.
Fallen by the wayside is the mangled chassis of a bus, in which the contestants were brought to Ground Zero. It was blown apart only a few feet from them the day they arrived there, blindfolded. “It was a wakeup call. From then on, the going only got more uphill... literally,” says Amin.
In the past few days, he’s made some harsh calls. The bikers have had to perform stunts on ravines and snow-clad mountains, cross gushing rapids, and do stoppies and wheelies on a log of wood. The adventure quotient has been greatly escalated, even for the crew members, who’ve shot 13,000 feet above sea level from a helicopter. Even though Amin has visualised the stunts, there’s no room for complacency — he still believes safety is key.
Focus on Safety
“Stunting has to be done under guidance and the awareness has come through,” he says. “Which is why we’re taking it a notch higher this time.” But reality shows invariably drift into sessions of contestant banter. “No! I have ensured that the stunting quotient gets prominence over the reality quotient,” Amin says.
Minutes before the eliminations begin, he walks to the centre of Ground Zero and signals the bikers to join him. You can hear the rumbling of four bikes, now coursing towards Amin and then breaking apart in four different directions only to stop at the perimeter and turn around. Another quick hand gesture, and the bikes all crest and speed toward him, making an abrupt halt just inches away, back to their prostrate stance — they’ve got their stoppies right.
Suddenly a fifth engine roars up and takes centre stage. It’s Anushka Manchanda, the host of this season, who is herself a bike fanatic and has started taking riding seriously. As if in celebration of that, and of all the hardships they’ve come through, the contestants rev up their engines to a deafening thrum. They’re blanketed by a thick cloud of smoke, and the spectators — crew members and locals — look on and cheer. You can see an unmistakable grin on Amin’s face — yes, this is the burnout, and they’ve mastered it.
Aalap visited Manali as part of a familiarisation trip managed by MTV