Profession: Actor, director, producer
Hometown: Jodphur, India
- Appeared in Bheja Fry 2, Little Box of Sweets, A Rectangular Love Story, Pyaar Impossible and It’s Breaking News
- Principal lead actor and Sutradhar (narrator in French and English) in the world tour of the musical Bharati, which premiered in Paris in 2006 and travelled to 27 cities in Europe. The show has been performed nearly 500 times since the premiere.
- Host of The Real India Travel Show on BBC World in 2000
-Narrator in Bharati at Montreal Place Des Art Oct. 18-24 and Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto Oct. 26-Nov. 6
-Artistic Director and Producer of an International Festival of Performing Arts in Delhi and Mumbai
Bollywood actor Rahul Vohra is known internationally for his films Swades: We the People and Monsoon Wedding. Now Vohra is set to hit the Canadian stage in the musical extravaganza Bharati.
As part of a worldwide tour, the show is coming to Toronto and Montreal for a limited engagement.
But when Vohra is back home in Bombay, he drives a 2005 Mahindra Scorpio 4x4.
Why did you choose a Scorpio?
I’m a 4x4 kind of guy. I don’t like sedans. I’m more of an SUV kind of person.
It’s what we call a poor man’s SUV. When I learned driving it was on a Jeep and I loved the outdoors.
I’ve driven often from Delhi to Bombay – that’s 1,500 kilometres. I’ve driven tip to tip in India.
I love driving all over the world. I think everyone should have a comfortable car big enough to shack up in case you need to put it on the side of the road some time.
Have you ever shacked up in your SUV?
Oh yeah. I’ve done that often.
When you’re driving long distances it’s always advisable to take a break every two hours – that’s an unwritten rule. I stop every two hours and have a chai or coffee and, if I’m feeling sleepy, I take a quick nap – 10 minutes then I’m back at the wheel.
Do you know what’s under the hood?
Yes, of course. It’s a five-speed Peugeot engine and it’s a very powerful car. It’s 2.6 litres. It’s about 2 1/2 tonnes of solid steel that’s moving on the road.
The only thing it has is a dangerous dead skid on slippery roads and you can’t do anything about it. When you’re in a dead skid you’re in a dead skid. That’s the only drawback.
It’s a very powerful all-terrain vehicle and it’s really comfortable to drive.
Have you been in any dangerous situations with it?
When I first bought the Scorpio my heart skipped many beats.
In Bombay, the first rains bring in all the dirt and it settles on all the roads. The first sprinkling of rain makes the roads dangerous and really slippery to drive on. The car went into a dead skid and I hit a car from the back and the car in front was a complete matchbox because this is 2 1/2 tonnes of dead weight moving.
I jumped out of the car to make sure the people were alright. I didn’t give a damn about the car. They were all okay and they forgave me as well because it really wasn’t my fault.
I couldn’t do anything. I just had to wait until it came out of its skid on its own. That was a dangerous memory.
What does a Scorpio say about you?
It gives the image I’m an outdoor person who likes driving and likes his vehicles. That’s about it.
I’m not the kind of actor who likes to flash his car around. I’ve always been subtly stated in whatever I do including my clothes, my accessories.
I’m never gunning for the over-the-top marks or over-the-top brands. Even if I had $75-million I wouldn’t buy a Lamborghini because I don’t think it’s required.
But do you really need such a big vehicle in India?
Well in India, especially in Bombay – and I’m being blatantly open about it – we don’t even have roads in Bombay.
We have a collection of potholes stuck together so it’s very comfortable to have a big car.
How do drivers in North America compare with drivers back home?
Drivers back home, despite our image about being reckless drivers, are actually very efficient with their wheels because we never know when we're going to hit a cow, a pedestrian, a cyclist, or rickshaw so you have to be careful all the time.
North American drivers have got these lovely cars and these lovely roads and very disciplined traffic so anything out of the ordinary can cause serious accidents.
But in India, I don't think there are so many pileups that happen because a lot of people are good at the wheel.
Who taught you how to drive?
My father was in the air force and he had a driver and every time [the driver] had to go to fill up gas in the station’s tank he would take me for a drive. At one point, I said, “Oh, this is lovely, let me hold the wheel” and I was 12 years old. In a week, he taught me how to drive.
And when my dad learned I was driving a defence vehicle he put the driver in jail for one week. Firstly, he said you are a minor and not allowed to drive. Secondly, you’re driving a defence vehicle which you’re not allowed to touch. You can be a passenger in it but only when I’m sitting in it.
When I learned, he taught me how to drive every single thing that was in the motor transport section including cranes, tractors that were used to pull planes and everything. The double clutching for diesel; the single clutch for petrol vehicles.
So, at the age of 12, I already knew how to drive. It came instinctively even at the age of 12 – that was a beautiful experience.
What he really taught me is the fact that you have to become as big as your vehicle. That’s it. You expand your own self and you become the vehicle. The moment you become the vehicle you know exactly which corner is touching where and you know how the vehicle responds in various conditions.
What was your first car?
My very first car was a Suzuki Gypsy. Then I owned a Suzuki Zen and then this Scorpio.
I love pushing my cars and getting everything out of them. I think all cars are meant for that.
I drive them as long as I can. I’m pretty loyal to my cars.
What do you listen to on the road?
I love listening to jazz, nice classical Indian music. And depending on how far I’m driving maybe an opera.
Do you rehearse behind the wheel?
Everybody in my house knows when I’m getting frustrated and getting stuck or blocked in writing a script I go out for a drive. That’s when I actually get my thoughts together. For me, it’s very special to drive.
If I can bring you the keys to any car what would it be?
I’d love a Porsche Cayenne – that’s my dream car. It’s one of the best cars around.
The interview has been edited and condensed.