Siachen: Aditya Rawal and Zahan Kapoor bring a chilling survival drama to Prithvi Theatre
Helmed by veteran actor-director Makarand Deshpande, the new play explores the inner psyche of soldiers at the Siachen Glacier
By Reema Gowalla
After starring together in Hansal Mehta’s biographical action thriller film Faraaz earlier this year, actors Aditya Rawal and Zahan Kapoor are now collaborating on the stage. Written by Aditya, the new play Siachen is set to premiere at Prithvi Theatre on June 15, featuring Zahan as the lead actor. Directed by screen and stage veteran Makarand Deshpande, the survival drama revolves around four Indian soldiers, who are stuck on the Siachen Glacier — known to be the coldest battlefield on the planet.
Also featuring Chittransh Pawar, Niketan Sharma, Jatin Sarin, Girish Sharma, and Rohit Mehra, Siachen is presented by 72° East Productions. The 80-minute play is translated to Hindi by Raghav Dutt. After a catastrophic blizzard that washed away everything in sight, the four Indian soldiers are left with no news from the base. The days that follow test their beliefs and their bonds, as they wait in hope for evacuation.
Why the Siachen Glacier…
Why did Aditya choose such a complex subject for a play? “I have always found the Siachen Glacier astounding and incredibly fascinating. A portion of the planet, which is considered uninhabitable, is also the highest and coldest battlefield on earth. That said, not a single bullet has been fired in that region for 20 years or so, due to a ceasefire between India and Pakistan. And yet, so many soldiers posted there lose their lives due to extreme weather and altitude,” he said, adding, “Although both nations have time and again expressed a desire to demilitarise the glacier, they haven’t been able to do so due to mistrust between them. To me, that was a tragedy of epic proportions, because it’s a tragedy of the human condition.”
About hope and hopelessness
In the play, Zahan plays the character of Lieutenant Tanmay Bose, who is the commanding officer of Bana Top — the highest post on the glacier. He is in charge of this team of soldiers. “There are four of them in our story. And the story begins six months after they were sent there. Typically, three months is the duration, and they come back down to base camp, and then for their second commission or whatever duty that they have to go on to. But three months at a time is the maximum posting at a glacial outpost, because it’s too extreme to survive more than that. But unfortunately after the three months were up, a terrible storm came in, a blizzard and washed away everything. They miraculously survived, but there has been no word from base until then, and the terrain has been upended. They find themselves in this predicament of should they hold onto the post, which is their first and fundamental duty, or do they abandon posts, so to speak, and try and retreat to safety. Or do they await evacuation, which is what they hope is coming. Because it should be coming, and that is the norm,” he elaborated.
The narrative focuses on what a small group of soldiers should hold on to in an extraordinary situation like that, vis-à-vis their own ideologies, each other and their ability to tackle this extreme external force, which is the glacier.
“I think first and foremost, the nature of the story, the nature of this conflict of isolation and an extreme inhospitable environment around them, the sense of feeling trapped, the dichotomy between hope and hopelessness, the futility or the necessity of their being there all of these things come up and all the characters have to confront these issues. And I think it’s just a very fascinating opportunity to be able to explore this,” Zahan added.
From being co-stars to becoming friends
Commenting on collaborating with Zahan in a theatrical production, Aditya said, “Zahan and I met during the workshops and readings of Faraaz. Then, the pandemic struck and suddenly we were in limbo. It was during the lockdowns that we decided to create other stuff, and we both were interested in theatre. Through those readings and meetings, we also realised that we have a similar outlook. Our method of collaboration was also quite similar. We find it very easy to put our ego in the backseat and focus on creating the best work possible. Our attitude toward work, what we want to do in the future — the kind of things that we want to do for ourselves, the desire to tell our own story — are among the things that we bonded over.”
For Zahan, on the other hand, this production is extremely special, because it is Aditya and him collaborating and trying to create their own work. “It’s the first step that we are taking to do this, which I hope will be the first among many steps going forward. I think we work well together because we both have very similar perspectives on and approaches with respect to the work. We’ve both been lucky enough to be given exposure and guidance from our families and encouraged to have a very blue collar approach. Not to have expectations at the outset, but to earn your place, to put in the hard work, to go to work daily, to just go and do your job and work as a collaboration and try and get better with each effort. So it makes it very conducive and it’s a very supportive environment. Both of us also are just extremely passionate about both theatre and cinema,” he added.
Creating Siachen on stage
Sharing his thoughts on directing Siachen, Makrand said, “When Aditya narrated Siachen to me, I was immediately transported into a different world. While we are oblivious to how the soldiers live in such hostile conditions, we become aware only when we see it in films or documentaries. Aditya has been successful in voicing the soldier’s inner voice in the play. The play has absurd farcical moments too, which are entertaining but also compel you to think. That’s the reason I chose to direct this play. I am looking forward to showing the audience the Siachen we create on stage and the Siachen within the soldier’s mind.”
The premiere show is taking place at Prithvi Theatre on June 15 (9pm), followed by more shows on June 16 (9pm), June 17 (6pm & 9pm) and June 18 (5pm and 8pm).
You can book your tickets for Siachen here.