(2004) Jai Jawan

Apparently, no woman has ever visited the Siachen glacier.

Therefore, who better to break through the cold than Bollywood’s own Ice Queen?

Aishwarya Rai braved alarmingly low temperatures to join the Indian soldiers, courtesy NDTV’s award-winning Jai Jawan programme.

The iconic beauty rubbed shoulders with the courageous troops stationed at 13,000 feet, entertaining them in a memorable interaction.

Temperatures were freezing. Actually, although the mercury regularly dipped below -15 degrees Celsius, the star made up for it with her warm presence.

The Siachen Base Camp saw the actress dancing and dining with the starry-eyed jawans, sharing their experiences and letting them in on her secrets.

NDTV also achieved another first by connecting live to the jawans’ homes through satellite, so they, and Aishwarya, could speak to the families directly.

This was the first time such televised communication has been achieved from such a tremendous height.

It was not easy. The insane temperatures kept freezing the satellite dishes, and the production staff had to keep heating the equipment with kerosene lamps to keep going!

Jai Jawan team leader Aarti Singh said, “I have never tried to shoot in such harsh conditions ever, but it was great fun!”

Of course, the show would not have been possible without the Indian Army’s help, both in terms of logistical support as well as in terms of permission etc since civilians are not allowed here.

The Army helped in moving hundreds of kilograms of recording equipment in their trucks and even offered a helicopter to ferry Ash and part of the crew from Leh to the Base Camp.

With the atmosphere being thinner at such heights, making breathing difficult, some of the NDTV crew fell prey to the obvious perils of high-altitude stay, with motion sickness and nausea, and even spells of fainting.

On the other hand, even after skipping the acclimatisation process, Ash gamely maintained her composure throughout the shoot.

“I had always wondered how our soldiers live in this extreme weather, it is more difficult than you can ever imagine”, she said.

The young jawans were thrilled to meet the star, and initially didn’t believe their superiors when they were told of Ash’s arrival.

A young soldier excitedly gushed, “We have seen her only on the screen or in a poster, it was unreal when she was sitting among us and talking to us like one of us!”

Like other stars on the show before her, Ash jived to her hit songs with the soldiers — Nimbooda nimbooda in this case — and sat with them on the mess hall floor for lunch. She distributed thousands of laddoos as well.

At the end of her memorable trip, Aishwarya was full of admiration for the armed forces, and said, “I simply salute their courage.”

The Jai Jawan episode featuring her will be broadcast across the NDTV channels over the New Year weekend.

- Rediff

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