A Life On The Fast Track

Ever tried driving,or being driven,at over 100 km an hour? Speed is a sensation you can taste.

Written by Shubhra Gupta | Published: October 22, 2011 3:35:30 am

Senna

Reliance Home Video,Rs 599

Ever tried driving,or being driven,at over 100 km an hour? Speed is a sensation you can taste. The road is a blur. The car is a shuddering,juddering animated piece of machinery,doing what it needs to,letting you know that you may be at the wheel,but you are pushing it. Beyond limit.

Now think of those who routinely drive over 300 km an hour or more. These are flesh-and-blood men,getting into contraptions that are so low to the ground that a child would tower over them. They may be some of the most highly sophisticated machines,each part meshing beautifully with the other,but contraptions they are,and the people who drive them round and round circuits,or around some of the globe’s most scenic tracks,are some of the most insanely brave men on earth.

I’ve been thinking in superlatives after watching Senna,the just-out terrific documentary,neatly timed with the F1 action starting in India at the end of October. Brazilian icon Ayrton Senna da Silva was,at his peak,the world’s best Formula One driver. He died in 1994 in an accident while in harness,while leading the San Marino Grand Prix in Italy. Senna,directed by UK-based Asif Kapadia,skilfully uses live action footage and voice-overs from family,friends and racing experts to piece together the life of a hero who was also a man: a man who overcame his weaknesses,but let his foibles keep him grounded,to rise to the top of his game.

We are shown clips of a young Ayrton (who dropped the common da Silva and adopted his mother’s maiden name Senna) go-karting. He came from the privilege that wealth brings (his parents supported him in his early forays on to the track),which continued when his international tryst began,as he was eagerly and speedily adopted by some of the racing world’s biggest names — Toleman,Lotus,McLaren. His desire to win is always in focus,even as the film shows us how ruthless he could be while he was on the track and how vocally upset he could be with his rivals: if he didn’t like something,he didn’t like it,and he was not going to be diplomatic about it,even when the world’s press was watching.

There are also some interesting insights into Senna’s brushes with spirituality,despite his immense worldliness (beautiful women throwing themselves at him,with him flirting right back,but always in a nice-boy manner). He was a very good-looking man,Ayrton Senna,dark locks,dark eyes,and he knew it,but he didn’t let it overwhelm him,and that made him even more appealing. That appeal,and of course,the frisson that an early,untimely end brings,keeps you watching,even if you haven’t the faintest clue about F1. Or the myths that are built around the gods who die young.

It’s a pity that the DVD doesn’t have any special features. It would have been nice to see how they put this one together.

shubhra.gupta@expressindia.com

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