Ujala Ali Khan
After Paunay 14 August and Dharna, Pakistani scriptwriter, satirist and humorist Anwer Maqsood focuses his writing skills on another sensitive subject.
Written by Anwer Maqsood, directed by Dawar Mehmood and presented by KopyKat Productions, Siachen draws from the 30-year conflict between India and Pakistan over the disputed Siachen Glacier region in Kashmir. The play delves into the human aspect of the story: the lives of the soldiers stationed at what is said to be the highest battleground on Earth (a ceasefire was declared in 2003).
“A soldier’s life is solely based on obeying and moving on – even if it means not knowing where he will end up. This is where the story of Siachen begins,” says writer Maqsood. “This play is about the lives of those soldiers and their life in sub-zero temperature,” adds director Mahmood.
The cast of 20-odd actors – all new to commercial theatre – include seasoned recreational performers as well as those who have never set foot on stage before.
Sikander Vincent Khan, 18, plays a short-tempered Pathan soldier who misses his mother very much. Nineteen-year-old Fareeha Raza, who plays the double roles of a sister and a girlfriend, are the youngest cast-members. Khan and Raza are classmates from school and currently on a gap-year.
“We just did our A-levels and took a gap year,” says Raza. “We came to audition, got selected and it’s been a crazy ride. The play is a tragic comedy, emotional and funny. Making people cry and laugh at the same time is very overwhelming.”
Also in the cast is Taha Humayun, who plays a politically inclined soldier. Humayun was last in Dubai in 2014, looking for a job.
“There was a time when I came here looking for work and didn’t find a any, so I had to go back to my country,” says Humayun. “Now I have been invited to this country to come and work. How the tables have turned.”
“This is a very sensitive topic, that no one has written about for the stage before,” continues Humayun. “Kudos to Anwer sahib and Dawar, for taking the risk, and that too with new actors!”
At 26, Zain Ghauri is the oldest cast member. He plays Deen Mohammed, the third most senior officer on the post, and a tough taskmaster with high hopes of doing something great for his country.
“As prep, there was a strenuous period where all the male characters were locked up in a house with no access to social media, newspapers, TV or internet,” says Ghauri. “We were on a strict diet and had a gruelling training regimen: with the military in the morning and in the gym later. Then at night we had rehearsals. For four long months we lived in isolation. Once we were ready physically, we went to Siachen and met with the officers and junior ranks to help us get into character better. It was a whole different level of method acting. There are so many stories: there were some great moments and some very challenging ones. It made us love and hate each other. It was a great bonding experience and it’s paying off now.”
• Siachen is showing in Dubai at Ductac Theatre, Mall of The Emirates from Thursday, March 17 to Saturday, March 19. Tickets are priced from Dh150 for Balcony to Dh1,000 for VIP Platinum. Call 052 733 8100 or 055 838 0566