Location Diaries: Breathtaking experience, literally
This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film and this week it is Sei
When Nakkhul heard that the shoot of his film Sei was to be held in Ladakh, he got excited. But the actor, who didn’t do much research before leaving, was in for some unpleasant surprises. First, he realised he was having difficulty in breathing. "Even at the airport, there are boards announcing that it takes two days for visitors to acclimatise themselves to the very high altitude. You have to move slowly and take it easy till your body adjusts to the low oxygen levels. But as we were on a tight schedule, we didn’t have time to spare and had to start work the very next day," says Nakkhul.
As they started shooting for a duet song, altitude sickness began taking its toll on the unit members. Unit hands began to feel dizzy and nauseous as breathing became horribly difficult. Energy levels sank, and lethargy set in due to the lack of oxygen. Nausea and vomiting followed. "We shot near Khardung La Pass which is at an elevation of 17,82 feet, where average temperatures are usually below zero. Unit people began getting headaches as the acute mountain sickness hit them." The long, winding and bumpy roads they drove on to reach there, also added to the feeling of nausea as they'd covered so much elevation all at once. "One of the hairdressers became so dizzy and short of breath that she had to be given a portable oxygen canister. We started calling her O2 akka because of that. Despite all this trouble, when we saw the beauty of the song on the monitor we felt, it was all worth the risk!"
Nakkhul’s troubles didn’t end there. The cabins they were staying in near Pangong lake, had no heaters in the rooms. In the below zero freezing weather, it was hard to get much sleep. "We had to fight the cold using double pairs of socks, a set of thermal wear and then cover ourselves with four quilts! Even then, it was sheer hell. But the results were well worth it," he says.