Night Rider, No More

John in Dhoom

John in Dhoom

In Bollywood, there’s perhaps no actor who’s as passionate about biking than John Abraham. The actor has always been fascinated by high-end bikes and also owns them. His passion for it extended to the screen as well with Dhoom, where John was seen racing past Abhishek Bachchan in what Bollywood loved to call a ‘super-bike’. The film went on to establish John as the original biker boy of Bollywood with a penchant for high-end speed biking.

But even as the super-bike established him as the poster boy for biking enthusiasts all over India, it also went on to give the actor the biggest lesson of his life. That happened when his love for late-night biking landed him in jail, albeit for a brief spell. Yes, a small mistake and a moment’s judgement landed the politically correct star in the biggest crisis of his life. The accident, the subsequent developments and the after-effects were never reported properly in the media because the case dragged on for more than 6 years. Enough time to lose track of it.

John was lucky to escape the bike accident with minor injuries, but not so lucky with the law as it didn’t spare him till he reached the Bombay High Court with his appeal.

But the incident still serves a brutal reminder of what can happen to you if you miss a beat even if you are John Abraham. Post the incident, John has become one of the most vocal advocates of safe driving.

Here is one such video where he is urging everybody to drive safely. We will tell you what happened that fateful night, but after the video clip. 

What really happened that day

Day: Saturday, April 8th, 2006. Place: Carter Road; Time: Midnight
John stepped out of his house to indulge in his favourite activity as usual – of taking a spin on his Yamaha 1100 cc motorbike on Carter Road around midnight. Anybody staying in Bandra knows that this is the norm in that place.The residents are greeted with screeching sounds of bike enthusiasts burning some serious rubber on Carter Road from late night to the wee hours. The police raids and, the crackdowns on speeding have not been able to curb rash driving on the road as it has now become a part of Bandra’s youth culture.

So, John was not doing anything out of the ordinary that night. He was swerving towards Carter Road from Khar-Danda when suddenly two cyclists came in front of him. Both the teenagers — Shyam Kasbe and Tanmay Majhi — didn’t spot the bike from a distance as John’s headlights were not on. John tried to avoid the crash, but lost control. His bike hit the two boys while he was flung on opposite side of the road due to the impact. John fell on the right pavement and hit his head. He had deep cuts below his right knee as it was pinned under the heavy bike. The boys too had deep gashes on their knees and elbows.

Inspite of his own injuries, being a responsible citizen that he is, John, flagged down an auto-rickshaw and took the two boys to the nearby Bhabha hospital where all the three of them were treated for external injuries.

When the boys were discharged from the hospital after an hour or so, John went and got himself admitted to Lilavati hospital for further treatment. He received four stitches on his leg because of the cut, the MRI had ruled out any internal injuries.

John the bike hat crashedThough initially the news was reported as John getting injured in a bike accident, the police soon got a whiff of the situation and wasted no time in lodging a FIR of negligent and rash driving against the actor the next day. They took the statements of both the boys and seized the actor’s bike. Here is the picture of John’s bike at the Khar police station a day after the accident.

On the surface of it, it was not a big accident as all the three had escaped with just cuts and bruises. But the case took on a bigger proportion since the man involved in the accident was an emerging Bollywood superstar.

The worse happened when the case came up for hearing at the lower court and John was awarded a simple jail-term of 15-days for rash and negligent driving. This is when the news really caught on in the media and spread like wildfire.

Everybody sadly ignored the fact that it was just an accident and that John had rushed the two boys to the hospital despite being injured himself. He also arranged and paid for their treatment at the Bhabha hospital. Everybody forgot that his better self took precedence over his ‘crime’ that night.

A period of court chakkars

Even though John kept on attending most of the hearings, the court didn’t show him mercy. Till the very end, the court maintained that he had been rash and negligent while driving his bike. The case dragged on for four agonising years and John fought the case instead of reaching an out of court settlement (probably because he was advised that way).

But his worst nightmares came true — the lower court sentenced him to 15-days in jail. A stunned John immediately went and appealed to the Sessions court against the order. The second order came around October 2011 and it upheld the earlier order. The court asked John to go to jail and the police took him into custody.

John next took his appealed to the Bombay High Court. Interestingly, the Bombay High Court too held that he be held guilty, but took a lenient view in its order that was delivered in March 2012. The court released him on probation under the Probation Of Offender’s Act. This, despite the two boys submitting an affidavit that they have no grudges against the actor and that they have reached a settlement. The court ordered John to pay a compensation too.

Here is the news report of John getting bail from the court.  

In the end, John managed to wriggle out of the complex legal battle that had almost sent him into the dingy barracks of Arthur Road jail.

The actor was perhaps made to pay a heavy price for losing control of his bike simply because he was a celebrity. If you go to Bandra even today you will find that scores of cases like these are sorted out simply by paying a few thousands of rupees. But John — since he was John Abraham — had to travel through every nook and corner of the complex legal system of India.

No more of midnight jaunts

John’s friends insist that the incident has scarred him so badly that he does step out for his midnight jaunts. I used to stay near Carter Road in Bandra and I don’t recall seeing John even once in the last five years stepping out for his ride after dinner. John is not a late-night bike rider anymore. His friends say that John only rides in ‘controlled environments’.

Recently John gifted away his latest bike (a Yamaha V-Max) to director Sanjay Gupta as a token of appreciation for the film Shootout at Wadala. Here are the pictures of John when he first got on the bike and when he gifted it to Gupta on his birthday.

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A simple error in judgement can turn one’s life around, and John is probably the right candidate to elucidate that point. But he was lucky that his life was not thrown off-track because of a single mishap. That story belongs to somebody else, the subject of another post.

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