Indian fans of Game of Thrones can take pride in the fact that the American fantasy drama has a strong connection to their country. Windlass Steelcrafts in Dehradun city, Uttarakhand has been working with major Hollywood studios and TV networks to supply props to films and TV productions including Band of Brothers, Batman Begins, Pirates of the Caribbean and Vampire Diaries.
“We have supplied armours and helmets that have been used in the Game of Thrones,” said chairman Sudhir Windlass. “We [also] have the license to retail authentic props that include Jon Snow’s cape, complete ensembles of various characters and Live Action Role Play swords like the long claw, ice and oath keeper.”
Windlass Steelcrafts began operations in 1943 to manufacture khukris (knife) for the British Gurkha regiment in India. Ever since, it has been working with studios including HBO, Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Paramount. The company has also had merchandising associations with Frank Miller’s 300, Assassin’s Creed, Braveheart, Gone With The Wind, Lord of the Rings trilogy, Sea of Monsters, The Terminator, Gladiator and Troy.
Providing details of his company’s association with Hollywood movies and production houses, Windlass explained, “There are two different aspects to it. Shooting props — wherein the items are used in the actual execution of the production. These are generally procured in very small quantities and are replicated (by the concerned production houses) using VFX and CGI effects. The other component is merchandising licensed props. Under this segment, the production houses issue licenses to retail high quality replicas of props that include clothing, armours and swords.
“Apart from our alliance with films and shows, we supply swords to major militaries across the world. Post Windlass’ acquisition of Marto, the Spanish sword maker, in 2011, we are one of the largest manufacturers of swords, shields, knives and bayonets. We also recreate replicas of historical items for museums. Our most recent collection includes reproduction of Sacred Islamic swords kept in Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul.”
But Windlass’ company is not the only one with a Hollywood connection in the picturesque city of Dehradun.
Ex-Indian army man Saurabh Mahajan founded his company, Lord of Battles, following his retirement in 2005.
“It is indeed a pleasure to watch our products in Hollywood movies and shows. I loved studying history of medieval times and was impressed by the kind of clothing, helmets, shields and swords that kings and their troops used,” he said. “While serving in Indian army’s Armoured Corp, I was fascinated by the design element of war supplies. I take pride in the fact that merchandise supplied by us adds to the success quotient of foreign films and shows.”
Mahajan has supplied costumes and ancient weaponry for many, including: London-based Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatre show Morte of Arthur (aluminium chain mails), The Treasures of Lake Kaban (steel helmets, one million coins, swords, daggers, clothing and Tsar Russian helmets), TV show Merlin (steel braces, gorget, pauldron and leather boots), Runstone (all camping medieval items, chain mails, brooches, pans and tripod stands), TV show The Bastard Executioner (chain mails, leather scabbard and steel armours) and Assassin’s Creed (medieval hat, helmet, leather boots and titanium chain mail, shirt and sleeves).
Stressing on the research that goes into each product, he adds: “Some of the items are very labour-intensive. Since everything has to not only look authentic, but historically accurate, we take special care to ensure the weapons have the feel of the originals, which is not easy.”
Reproductions of the metal regalia of the long dead kings and their buried kingdoms are the speciality of Syndicate Armoury in Shahidabad, Uttar Pradesh.
Tom Cruise and Orlando Bloom, stars of The Last Samurai and Kingdom of Heaven respectively, need to know that part of their success in these movies goes to Ashok Rai, whose company manufactured the war paraphernalia for them.
“We supplied hundreds of pieces of handmade chain mails, headgears and leggings for Kingdom of Heaven. It was one of the few movies that used metal armoury made solely by hand, so we used aluminium, since it is a light metal,” he said, speaking from his company where artisans work on steel and aluminium plates, hammering them and creating swords, axes, helmets, medieval shoes and clothing out of them.
Having manufactured footwear for the Russell Crowe movie Robin Hood, Rai is known for replicas of historical pieces dating back from 1000AD to the 17th Century and provided arms for Bollywood period movies Bajirao Mastani and yet to be released, Padmavati.
“We have produced replicas of swords and arms kept in glass shelves at the British Museum and Royal Armouries Museum in Warwick. These were ordered for the discerning buyers, who like to touch and have the feel of the real product,” he said. “The products showcase the age-old magical human creativity and are of superlative quality that surpass modern machines.”