A double-decker in Paris

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The movie, ‘An Evening in Paris’, found its way to cinema halls in India in 1967. Shot extensively in the picturesque locales of Paris–the French city of love, the Hindi movie starring Shammi Kapoor as Shyam (Sam) and Sharmila Tagore as Deepa Malik alias Roopa Malik (Suzy) depicted a story of two young souls who come in contact with each other quite by accident and fall in love. Travelling to Paris in search of true love, Deepa, supported by her wealthy father boards a rather futuristic looking Paris tour bus in an effort to get rid of the pesky romeo who is no other than Shyam. How Shyam lands there is a mystery, and their-in lies the plot of many a Hindi movies. Shyam follows Deepa onboard the bus, operated by Groupe Cityrama. Shyam’s perseverance pays off – He and Deepa fall for each other. The Paris tour bus turns out to be platform for a life changing event.

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At a time when ‘tail fins’ were in vogue as far as the design of automobiles was concerned, Groupe Cityrama is known to have engaged French coach-builder Currus to create a futuristic looking double-decker bus. Currus responded by building a double-decker bus on a Citroen U55 truck chassis. Called as the Citroen U55 Cityrama Currus, the double-decker bus, painted in a shade of red, white and blue (looks monochrome in the movie), was pressed into service in Paris in the 1950s. Flaunting styling elements like the faux wire-strike knife positioned atop the center of the driver’s windshield, and an extensive use of glass, the double-decker bus proved to be quite popular with the people of Paris. If the curved glass windows made it easy to catch a good view of the sights in Paris, a substantial portion of the side walls and roof were made in glass too. The bus also flaunted a transparent glass roof on the upper deck, which was quite rare at that time. The transparent glass roof could be taken off during summer. Enough to make people wonder if it came from outer space, each seat of the Paris tour bus was equipped with a Paris voice guide system in eight different languages. In service till 1965, the srangely attractive Citroen U55 -based city tour bus was powered by either a petrol or a diesel engine. The six-cylinder, 4.5-litre indirect injection diesel engine of the bus developed 73 hp. It was the first big Citroen (Type 45) engine to have not been derived from Citroen car engines! The rolling chassis was made available in either axle configurations, and in different wheelbase specifications. Making for a memorable city-tour experience, the Citroen U55-based city tour bus, plying the boulevards of Paris, made for a larger than life sight in the movie with Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore riding it.

The Plot

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A young and affluent girl from Delhi is abducted by a man when she steps out with her fiance one late evening. The two drive into a deserted petrol pump. The girl, whose character is portrayed by Alia Bhatt, steps out of the car and is nabbed by a person called Mahabir Bhati. Bhati dumps the girl into his Tata 407 LCV parked close by even as the girl’s fiance, convulsed in fear, gets into the car and sits there. Bhati drives away with Veera Tripathi (played by Alia Bhatt). For Veera, it is a blessing in disguise. It was to step out and breathe some fresh air that she persuaded her fiance to take her out for a drive. Veera was finding it difficult to come to terms with her marriage; the social and emotional change it would entail. Released in 2014, the Hindi movie, Highway, directed by Imtiaz Ali, saw Bhati driving across the highways of Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir with Veera onboard. Claimed to look at Stockholm Syndrome, the movie drew attention to the issue of child exploitation. In the film, over time, Veera develops feelings for Bhati, played by Randeep Hooda. Things get to a level where Bhati tries to get rid of Veera, but she does not give up on him. The two travel to Kashmir, all the while dodging cops searching for Veera. Veera gets to live her dream as the two begin staying together at Bhati’s house in a mountainous terrain away from the hustle and bustle of the city life.

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Across the various highways, and the treacherous himalayan region, the Tata 407 is shown to do its job sincerely. It plays a catalyst, and helps to reveal the plot. Introduced in 1986 by Tata Motors, the 407 has turned out be an iconic LCV in India. Indigenously developed to take on Japanese competition in the form of DCM toyota, Eicher Mitsubishi and Swaraj Mazda, the Tata 407 has sold over 600,000 since the time it was launched. If this underlines the truck’s popularity and success, the fact is, the Tata 407 is synonymous with LCVs in India. Springing no less than 10 variants, including a smaller and lighter 302 pick-up truck, the Tata 407 is found at every nook and corner of the vast country that India is; it is also found to ferry fruits, vegetables, construction material, milk and dairy products, garments, industrial equipment and bits, and much more. Also used by paramilitary forces, the Tata 407, offering a payload capacity in the range of 2.2-tonne to 4.2-tonne, depending on which of the 10 variants one chooses, is also exported to about 15 countries in South Asia and Africa. Also found in a semi-forward bus guise, called the Cityride, which can seat 12 to 24 people, the 407 is powered by a four-cylinder, turbo-diesel engine that produces 73 hp. The G-380 synchromesh transmission is a five-speed unit. Suspension is made up of semi-elliptical leaf springs and hydraulic double acting shock absorbers. An anti-roll bar at front provides good stability.

Riding the Janbus

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The Ashok Leyland Janbus has played a cameo role in a Hindi movie, ‘Badrinath ki Duhania’, that was released in March 2017. A romantic comedy film, which was promoted as yet another in a series of such movies after ‘Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania’, which was released in 2014, the scene that features the Janbus is when the hero Badrinath (played by Varun Dhawan) dreams of chasing a beautiful girl Vaidehi (Alia Bhatt), whom he sees at a wedding. Barinath is shown chasing the girl on the streets of Kota, Rajasthan, as she rides the Janbus. The movie, directed by Shashank Khaitan, portrays Barinath as a lad from a wealthy family staying in Jhansi. Upon seeing Vaidehi at the wedding Baridnath falls head over heels for her. He makes it a mission to marry Vaidehi even if it involves going against the wish of his father. Bardinath has in front of him the example of his elder brother, who was compelled to marry a girl suggested by his father despite loving some other girl.

Even if it is in a dream, the Janbus plays a positive role in depicting a journey of love between two young souls. Found in many cities of India, Ashok Leyland Janbus is claimed to come with a highly competitive acquisition cost. First city-bus in India to offer an automated manual transmission, the Janbus, introduced in August, 2014, is a fully-flat floor, front-engine bus with single-step entry. It is feature rich and technologically well configured. Designed as an innovative transport solution to those who find the cost of acquiring low-floor rear-engine city-buses exorbitant, the Janbus has come to be regarded for its ability to deliver a smooth, comfortable and affordable ride. With a uniform floor height of 650 mm, the Janbus is easy to board and exit. It is equipped with Passenger Information System (PIS), vehicle tracking and an infotainment system. Complying with urban bus specifications, and the bus code, the bus offers high degree of customisation options, including the placement of doors and seats. Capable of being used for regular routes as well as for BRT, or for airport duty, the Janbus is available with AC and without AC. Capable of seating 40 people, the Janbus is powered by a ‘H’ series, six-cylinder, common rail diesel engine that produces 225 hp at 2500 rpm of power, and 800 Nm of maximum torque. Transmission is a six-speed, Leymatic AMT. Called the Optidrive, the AMT tech is modular in nature, and enables smooth and comfortable travel. The Janbus shown in the movie bears the ‘Kota Parivahan Seva’ logo, and is non AC. In the movie it makes for a refreshing change over the city-buses shown in movies with interiors that look bland, cramped and uninspiring.


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The role of a Renault truck

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In the Hindi movie, ‘Dishoom’, which released in 2016, a Renault truck has featured in a scene that plays out on a location in the Middle East. The plot of the movie unravels in the Middle East in the run up to an important cricket tournament between India and Pakistan. India’s top cricketer Viraj Sharma, played by Saqib Salim, goes missing. Indian authorities get a video clip from a unidentified Pakistani cricket fan. He claims to have been abducted by Viraj, and warns the authorities that they should cancel the match. Sensing the gravity of the situation, the Indian defence minister sends a special task force to retrieve Sharma. A part of the task force is an officer Kabir Shergill, played by actor John Abraham. A manhunt begins. The team has 36 hours to accomplish their task. To assist Kabir’s task force, an Indo-Emirati police officer Junaid Ansari, played by actor Varun Dhawan, is assigned. His credentials say that he is well verse with the region, which is also the reason he was selected. It does not take long for Kabir to understand that Junaid is a rookie.

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A chain of events led Kabir and Junaid to a cricket bookie Wagah, played by actor Akshay Khanna. The duo finds out that he is the culprit. Wagah and his close aid Altaf confess to have kidnapped Viraj. Fearing trouble, Altaf flees to his native state Abbudin, It is necessary that Kabir and Junaid find out Altaf to get to Sharma. Kabir and Junaid sneak into Abbudin without documents by riding in a giant multi-axle Renault ‘C’ truck. Renault truck brand belongs to the Volvo Group of Sweden, and was acquired in 2001. The ‘C’ truck range is made up of medium and heavy-duty vehicles, and was introduced in 2013. The range was part of a new line up of Renault trucks (C, D, K, T) that were introduced in 2013. Volvo Group invested Euro-two billion to develop these. The truck seen in the movie seems to be a 40-tonne long-haul tractor truck combination. This truck is powered by either the DXI 11 or DXI 13 engine range. Spanning five variants between the two, the power output of the engines is in the range of 330 hp to 520 hp. The truck features a ‘night and day cab’ with a standard roof. The highlight of the C Road cab is the trapeze shaped windscreen, precisely angled at 12 degrees. This design is said to improve the drag coefficient by up to 12 per cent. The single-reduction drive axles in the truck are said to be particularly suited for on-road applications, and improve the payload capacity. Transmission is an automated ‘optidriver’ unit, and the fuel tank capacity of up to 1,470-litres makes the Renault ‘C’ truck a good candidate for long hauls.

Army Stallion


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Despite the dissent of his parents, Karan Shergill, played by Hrithik Roshan, enrolls in the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in the Hindi movie ‘Lakshya’. Released in 2004, ‘Lakshya’ (goal in English) was a war movie that focused upon Karan Shergill, a young lad attracted to the Indian Army after learning of his friend having joined the army. Karan finds a place at the IMA. A few days into the training, and he drops out. Once opposed to his decision of joining the army, Karan’s parents express their displeasure about him quitting. Karan’s girlfriend deserts him. Shaken by the turn of events, Karan rethinks his decision. He rejoins the course and completes it successfully. He joins the army ranks as a Lieutenant, and is posted at the base camp leading up to the war grounds of Kargil. Upon the news of armed Pakistani infiltration at Kargil, Karan’s battalion receives orders to move to the Line of Control (LoC). His battalion begins their journey to the LoC across the hostile mountainous terrain in jeeps and army trucks. A part of this convoy are the Ashok Leyland Stallion four-wheel drive 4×2 trucks. When the Kargil war broke out in 1999, the Indian Army pressed numerous Stallions that it had in its fleet to transport soldiers, ammunition, cargo, and more, to the war zone.

Ashok Leyland Stallion is claimed to have entered into the Indian Army service in 1997. The Indian Army was looking at replacing its aging fleet of Shaktiman trucks based on an old MAN truck design. Derived from a civilian version of a light-duty truck that Ashok Leyland introduced in 1987 in association with Iveco that traced its roots to the Ford Cargo, the Stallion range resulted out of Ashok Leyland’s ambition to pursue defense business. The Stallion was inducted in the army as a 5-tonne 4×4 high ground clearance truck. On hard surfaces the truck could carry up to 7.5 tonne. With an impressive payload-to-weight ratio in its class, over 70,000 Stallions are said to have been inducted into the army till date.Assembled by the Vehicle Factory Jabalpur (VFJ) from CKD kits provided by Ashok Leyland Defence Systems (ALDS), the Stallions are serving multiple logistical and tactical applications. The standard troop and cargo carrying body is fitted with drop sides and tailgate, removable bows and tarpaulin. The vehicle is fitted with a two-person sleeper cab, similar to the previous Stallion Mk.3. Powered by a Ashok Leyland W06DTI 177 bhp, 5.7-litre turbocharged diesel engine, the Stallion’s operation range is between -40 degree Celsius and +55 degree Celsius, and at altitudes of up to 5500 m. Transmission is a five-speed synchromesh unit with a transfer case. Propeller shafts route power to a full-floating, single-speed Hypoid drive front and rear axle. The hypoid drive allows for unique gear configurations. Cabin and the superstructure are bolted to an all steel and ladder type frame. Apart from the baseline Stallion, which is capable of accepting a wide variety of body types or shelters, the military truck has also come to have a 6×6 (Stallion HMV) version. The payload capacity is the same. Powering the vehicle however is a 260 hp diesel engine with improved mobility over difficult terrain. A 12×12 Super Stallion version is said to be in the works.

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As for Karan, and if he achieved his ‘Lakshya’, it may be well worth to watch the movie. It is thrilling as well as interesting for certain.

Destiny’s ride


A Hindi movie of the early nineties, ‘Dil hai ke manta nahi’, turned out to be immensely popular. It had a simple, flowing story which revolves around two young souls. Pooja and Raghu (portrayed by Pooja Bhatt and Aamir Khan). Depicting a journey that is fraught with danger, excitement, drama and more, the story evolves as Pooja runs away from home. She is in love with an actor who is wooing her to fulfill his ulterior motives. Pooja’s father, a wealthy businessman, is aware, and keen to save his daughter of the trouble. On her way to Bangalore, Pooja comes across press reporter Raghu, as she boards a bus to meet her lover. The two ride the same bus. While Pooja is out to meet her lover Raghu is out to cover an assignment. The journey that follows is eventful, and draws the two closer. Pooja and Raghu eventually come to like each other, and fall in love.

The bus that Pooja and Raghu ride during their journey of the Tata make. It together is of Tata make. It seems to be a LPO 1510. Albeit in luxury guise with considerable rear overhang the bus in the movie depicts a luxury coach. Its considerable rear overhang suggests that it seats more people. The LPO 1510 couls seat up to 52 passengers depending upon the configuration of the seats.


In the movie, the bus is shown negotiating the picturesque ghats of National Highway four (NH4). It may be safely assumed that it is powered by a Tata 697 series engine. This engine was popular with bus operators in the mid 80s and early ninetees. It eventually went out of production, and replaced a Cummins engine. The 697 series however made a comeback in 2001, albeit in a revised form. The revised 697 range was turbocharged and Euro compliant. It was re-introduced in medium commercial vehicles, and made them price competitive. The Tata LPO 1510 chassis proved to be a popular choice with bus operators. In 2008, at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre, a Long-Distance Variant (LDV) of a CNG LPO 1510 bus chassis was also launched. The LPO 1510 forward control bus platform was eventually upgraded to LP/LPO 1512. The LP/LPO 1512 continues to be a popular choice with bus operators. It continues to find favour with private and public bus operators.


Bodyguard and a Cheetah


The 2010 Bollywood movie, Bodyguard, features a Ashok Leyland Cheetah in the shade of purple and white. A Maharashtra Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) Hirkani bus, the Cheetah is shown ferrying lead actor Salman Khan, a bodyguard by profession, on an assignment to protect a girl called Divya, played by Kareena Kapoor. He has been contracted by Divya’s father to protect her from his enemies. Indebted by the help offered by Divya’s father to his mother before he was born, it is an assignment that Salman cannot refuse. He sets on a journey to Divya’s place in the Cheetah. Representing the semi-luxury inter-city public transport buses MSRTC operates, the Hirkani with Salman in it is shown coming to halt under a thick shade of trees by the roadside. The location is claimed to be on the outskirts of Satara in Maharashtra. A comic character in the movie, Tsunami Singh, runs to board the bus as it comes to a halt. He stumbles and falls flat on his face. This attracts the attention of all those on the bus, including Salman. Once on board, the two strike conversation and become friends.

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Featuring a large grille, the Ashok Leyland Cheetah, with a smaller front overhang, is claimed to be preferred by State Transport Undertakings (STUs) because it can seat more people. With a wheelbase of 5870 mm, the Cheetah is powered by a Hino H-series engine that develops 160 hp and 180 hp. High torque is known to present the bus with good agility to tackle hilly terrains. Transmission is six-speed syncromesh with overdrive. Weighing 15-tonnes, the suspension of Cheetah is made up of leaf spring and shock absorbers. Offering a 2×2 layout, the Cheetah Hirkanis, off-late, are said to be fitted with air suspension at the rear. Seating 35 people, the Cheetahs that MSRTC has recently inducted in its fleet are said to have been fitted with comfortable push-back seats. Mostly those that ply on the Pune-Mumbai and Pune-Kolhapur routes. A historical brand from Ashok Leyland, Cheetahs make the main stay of many STUs

in India.