When two Indian climbers, Abhijeet Singh (30) and Pranav Rawat (31), scaled a frozen waterfall, it made people gape in awe. A feat of this sort had never been achieved in the country before. The first waterfall they scaled was the Shela Waterfall, and then they went on to conquer the Lingti Waterfall, both situated in the Spiti region of Himachal Pradesh. But what went unnoticed was the effort of the crew that filmed the entire journey.
Documented by Delhi-based production house, The Morpheus Productions, the project is titled, The Fall. In what is being called India’s first frozen waterfall trek, Ankur Phougat, co-founder of the production house and director of photography (DOP) for this project, says, “The Fall is more than a waterfall climb for us; it is the triumph of human spirit. By conquering the extreme physical, emotional and psychological barriers we met on the way, we wanted to showcase that the human spirit is capable of achieving extraordinary results.”
The idea to attempt a trek of this scale and nature was the brainchild of Abhijeet and Anchit Thukral, who has directed the documentary. Talking about his experience, Thukral says, “It was surreal. Going to Spiti in January, when the routes are blocked and there is no water requires motivation that only the love for your job can bring.” With oxygen levels dropping at an altitude of 12,000 feet, the camera and equipment, too, require extra care. “We were lodged in an upcoming Zostel property and heaters were specifically brought in for the cameras,” he adds.
The trek came with its fair share of roadblocks. Many crew members faced near-death experiences. The first climb up the Shela Waterfall took the climbers over six hours to complete. “During the last 100 metres or so, Pranav, who was in the lead, contacted Abhijeet to tell him that the ice ahead was thin as there was water flowing behind it. One wrong move and it would all have been over. For me, it was the farthest feeling of sadness,” says Thukral.
The crew underwent training at the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, but more than physical training, it was very important to be mentally prepared. “Without patience, determination and apt planning, it would not have been possible to shoot in the freezing cold temperatures ranging -20°C to -35°C,” says Phougat. The crew also had three terrain experts with them who helped them scout vantage points for the shoot.
Thukral now wants to send the documentary to various Indian and international film festivals. “The best moment is yet to come,” he concludes.