In the spotlight: Warming up to ‘Siachen’

Actors visit glacier and undergo intense physical and psychological training for their roles

Humay Waseem September 24, 2015
Actors go through two hours of training under the supervision of a trainer from Pakistan Military Academy, followed by two hours of gym in the evening. PHOTOS: PUBLICITY


Following their last theatre production, Dharna, the dynamic duo of Anwar Maqsood and Dawar Mehmood is back with another  play. They are currently busy in the rehearsals of their sixth co-production, Siachen.

The play will take a satirical stance on the tension between Pakistani and Indian soldiers, something that has been soaring high since forever, and the conflict arises when Pakistanis slaughter a cow in the presence of Indian soldiers. Twenty-three new comers were cast, each from different backgrounds, and ethnicities out of the 600 auditions that took place for Siachen.

From actors being locked under house arrest for three months to them physically climbing 11,000-16,000 feet of the Siachen the glacier, what makes the theatre production unique is the vigorous training that the cast had to go through. “We have locked down all the boys and isolated them to give them a feel of an isolated soldier posted at Siachen. They have no phones, are allowed one phone call every day and very few visitors,” shared Usaid Naveed, manager at KopyKat production.

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“It’s hard to not be able to walk up to see your family who are your loved ones. You miss them and it’s hard to keep yourself together at that point but we’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s all in a day’s work for a soldier,” added Omar, a cast member.

With Dawar being a strong advocate of method acting, Naveed claimed how the house arrest was extremely essential for the role development of the characters. “We wanted them to feel their characters more than just acting them out. They write letters to their loved ones. We have given them loads of sports activities to keep them active and entertained,” exclaimed Naveed.

When inquired about climbing Siachen, Hajra, a female actor shared “It’s not something explainable. Although I do have to say that the soldiers were very hospitable. The feeling of being thereof climbing up to 17,000 feet was something that I am proud of.”

Actors go through two hours of training under the supervision of a trainer from Pakistan Military Academy followed by two hours of gym in the evening every day. “They are following a strict diet and routine with four-hour rehearsals every day, “explained Naveed.

Most actors climbed an altitude of 11,000 feet but the ones who were eager to climb 16,000 feet were informed about the prevailing weather conditions and fatal illnesses such as High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) and High-Attitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).

“We stayed at the most luxurious post in Siachen, which is a bed made of bricks with just a sheet on top. That is luxury for those men,” said Mohsin, who is one of the cast members.

Naveed mentioned how the team also attended sessions with war-heroes from the army so that they were able to feel their lives at Siachen or in any other army operation.  “Siachen was my mecca. I sat there, said the fatiha for the martyrs who have served our country and just did not want to return back,” said Zain, who is acting in the play.

The play is expected to open for public in the end of October, with the tour starting from Islamabad.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2015.

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