Turning Wheels is a travel series with a difference. Aiming to change the perception of disabilities among the masses, the web series will feature disabled protagonists going on an adventurous road trip from Delhi to Goa.
Turning Wheels is both like and unlike any typical travel series. Like other travel shows, it will feature travel enthusiasts driven by wanderlust, realising their dreams of visiting famous as well as unexplored destinations, engaging in adventure sports, trying out delicious local cuisines and exploring the locales. What makes it unique, however, is the fact that the protagonists of the series will be people with disabilities.
The six-part web series, produced by Ruchi Bhimani and directed by Faraz Ansari, aims to bring awareness about disability and accessibility.
“Fun, adventure and lots and lots of travelling is something we never relate with people with disabilities. Our perceptions have made us oblivious to the fact that such people are just like us- they too have dreams. Even they want to watch the sunset from the top of a mountain, go rappelling in the flowing river or feel the flutter of wind on their face as they sit in the window seat during a long journey,” says Faraz, his voice filled with ingenuity and enthusiasm.
Through Turning Wheels, Ruchi and Faraz aim to try and change just this conception, the prevalent, matter-of-fact belief that disability restricts and limits a person. The thought of disabled people seeking adventure is startling to most.
It all started when, a few months earlier, Ruchi met someone through an online dating app. The two got along really well, discussing their hobbies and interests. When she came to know later that he was blind, she was amazed. Ruchi terms the experience as a “paradigm shift” in her perception of people with disabilities.
“Initially I didn’t know about his disability. He hadn’t told me in good faith. He talked to me about his hobbies, like cycling, watching films and reading. We talked about our favourite films and books. Later when I came to know that he was blind, I was boggled. I realised how great it had been that in not knowing, I had treated him just as a person, not a ‘blind’ person! It was such a profound experience for me,” says Ruchi.
A filmmaker by profession and passion, this experience got Ruchi thinking and she came up with the idea of making a web series featuring travellers with disabilities. Her simplest wish is for her audience to go through the same eye opening experience like she did.
“Well, I cannot say for sure. But I’d definitely want them to look at people with disabilities in a wholly different light after watching this series,” she says.
The idea was further shaped through Ruchi’s conversations with Neha Arora, who runs the travel agency Planet Abled for people with disabilities. Interacting with Neha gave her clarity about her concept and soon she roped in Faraz as director of the series.
Saying yes to the project came naturally to Faraz; he fell in love with the idea as soon as he heard it. The duo then went on a trip to Rishikesh with Planet Abled as a part of their recce. The experience offered the pair with what each of them needed: creative clarity for Faraz and for Ruchi, a reality check!
“The trip to Rishikesh was a milestone. On the trip, I could observe the tiniest things and I immediately knew what I’d be capturing while shooting. I have observed that for able bodied people, vacations become a list of things to tick off. Clicking pictures, visiting different ‘spots’, eating at restaurants and so on. What I saw on my trip to Rishikesh was how the (disabled) travellers were so enthralled about every small thing, like putting their feet in water or a bonfire,” said Faraz.
The web series will be shot on a road trip from Delhi to Goa, covering three states and six destinations.
“We will explore new locales, engage with local cultures, relish home-grown tastes, scour neighbourhood shopping spots and get bitten by the travel bug! What will make it different from any other travel show is the fact that the riders on this journey will be people with disabilities, who will offer their radically different perspective throughout,” explains Faraz.
That most of the tourist destinations in India aren’t disabled-friendly might be a hurdle in the crew’s journey. Ruchi and Faraz had a glimpse of the problems during their Rishikesh trip, when travellers on wheelchairs had to be carried down the ghats as there was no way for a wheelchair to descend the stairs. Faraz relates to this lack of disabled-friendly infrastructure in India with a personal experience.
“A while ago, I was shooting for a project at Taj Mahal. It was really hot and suddenly my feet went numb. I couldn’t walk! It was 45 minutes before a wheelchair arrived. And even with the wheelchair, we realised that there was no ramp to get down! Even the most popular monument in the country doesn’t have easy access for those with disabilities. So, it might happen that we reach Fatehpur Sikri and realise that there’s no way a wheelchair can get up there. Very much likely. But that will be an eye opener in so many ways, for everyone who’ll be watching the series” he says.
The duo is currently in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign for the series. Once the resources are in place, the four protagonists- representing a range of disabilities- will be selected through a nationwide search via social media. “We’re looking for people who have done some amount of travel, and are aware of the challenges. They should be enthusiastic about travelling and also comfortable with being filmed,” says Faraz.