The play, Siachen, is not the first time that Aditya Rawal and Zahan Kapoor have worked together. They were last seen in Hansal Mehta’s Faraaz, which released earlier this year. The movie was based on the real-life attack on a Dhaka bakery in 2016, in which Rawal played a terrorist, and Kapoor—the late Shashi Kapoor’s grandson— one of the victims. However, in Siachen, directed by Makarand Deshpande, the duo is on the same side.
Rawal, who is the son of actors Paresh Rawal and Swaroop Swampat, has written the play–a fictional survival drama about three Indian soldiers stuck on the glacier, located on the Indo-Pakistan border.
Although Rawal had initially approached Kapoor for another play that he wanted to stage in India as part of 72° East Productions– he had already presented The Queen in New York in 2016 –, one thing led to another and they found themselves working together in Faraaz. That was the beginning of a friendship based on mutual passion and creative urges, binding the 29-year-olds together.
Why stage a play about Siachen? Rawal has long been intrigued by the fact that not a single bullet has been fired in the coldest and highest battlefield in the last 20 years. And yet both countries spend a lot of money to send soldiers there at great risk to their life. “What is it that compels us to go there? At some level, I realise that it is to do with the human tendency to mistrust, which is actually at the root of all conflict. I wanted to explore that,” he says. The play has emerged from the question: Conflict is futile, it is complicated, but is it also necessary?
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For Kapoor, it was the idea of collaborating on a homegrown original story, written by a friend, that set the ball rolling. During the lockdown, they were reading a lot of plays written by other writers. “We realised that when we already have Siachen, why not work on that itself?” he says. The process of working on Faraaz made them realise just how like minded they were. “We want to create bigger things in the future together, whether in theatre or films. We can be storytellers in many aspects by facilitating different mediums and stories,” adds Kapoor.
In addition to creative inputs, Rawal also credits Kapoor with suggesting that they translate the play, originally written in English, to Hindi. “Zahan has been instrumental in bringing the script to where it is today. He suggested a wonderful writer, Raghav Dutt, to translate the play into English,” says Rawal.
Getting Deshpande, also known as Mak, on board as director has been the cherry on top for these young theatre makers. “We, collectively, don’t have the experience that Mak Sir has,” laughs Kapoor. “We have a passion for work and a hunger for learning, but none of that will trump his instinct or knack for radical ideas,” he says.
Deshpande believes that Siachen will prove to be an important play for our times. “I have never done a play like this in my career. I have tried to be in Siachen to depict the challenges that the duty-bound soldiers face, how they hold on to the post in the most difficult of situations, and how Siachen affects their mind,” he elaborates. The veteran theatre practitioner is all praises for the young minds behind the project. “Aditya is an original playwright and Zahan, with whom I have worked before (in the play Pitaji Please), is one of the most committed people I have seen,” he says.
Siachen will be staged at Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai, from 15-18 June
Deepali Singh is a Mumbai-based art and culture writer