India’s relationship with Game of Thrones goes beyond fandom.
Neha Pant on the two manufacturing units of Dehradun that
supply to the hit HBO series and many other Hollywood productions.
Before we find out the fate of Lord Commander Snow in the season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones, here is an unexpected piece of news for Indian fans. On the outskirts of Delhi, in the hustle-bustle of Noida, Uttar Pradesh, the textile unit of RS Windlass & Son makes cosplay dreams come true for millions of Game of Thrones (GOT) fans across the world. It is here that the iconic coat of Jon Snow gets it replicas and so does Harry Potter merchandise, Star Wars, 300 and even Gone With the Wind. Sugandh Windlass, the daughter of Pradeep Windlass, (president of Windlass Group) says, that the Harry Potter and Star Wars costumes have done well, but the GOT costumes are their top sellers.
Even though they have to just replicate the design handed out to them by production houses, the task is not easy. It is a long procedure that requires sourcing the material and then getting into the business of specifications, like colour and style. If they are lucky, they might find it in the markets of Delhi and Haryana, but that is rare. Most of the time, the material is custom made in mills. The Hollywood attitude is something that they have to constantly work around to. For instance, Pradeep once went to George Lucas’s ranch, called (what else but) Skywalker, to take a closer look at what he was expected to make. And they wouldn’t let him touch the clothes. It was only after he told them that there was no way he could manufacture a replica without getting a feel of the cloth did they let him get close to it.
Then there is the armoury leg of their business, Windlass Steelcrafts, that supplies props to Hollywood production houses. For example, the helmet worn by general Maximums in the movie The Gladiator, was made by Windlass. But they weren’t always working with Hollywood. When they set up in Dehradun in 1940’s, Ved Prakash Windlass, Pradeep’s father, was an on-ground supplier to the British who would supply resources such as cutlery. The British were having problems procuring khukri’s from Nepal at the time and wondered if he could get some for the British Army. Pradeep says his father had no clue what a khukri was at the time. “But he found out and decided to set up a small factory. He brought in artisans who could help with the craft and that is where it all began,” says Pradeep.
After Independence in 1947, Windlass continued supplying the khukri to the regiments posted in Singapore and Malaysia. They eventually diversified into supplying the Naga dao, jack-knives and khukri’s to the Indian regiments as well. Despite the success, they could only do so much with the armoury unit as the Arms Act of 1959 made it illegal for anyone to sell a weapon with a blade that was more than six inches long. Even though they still supply to the Army and Navy—the much coveted sword of honour, given to the best all-round student of Indian military is manufactured by Windlass. They are ecstatic to have moved frontiers in 1978.
“It was when we started making replicas of old (and famous) weaponry that we started getting international attention from collectors,” says Pradeep, who also states that, Windlass supplied 800 swords to HBO’s Rome. According to him, the knife that James Bond throws at the end in Skyfall was theirs. They even gave props to The Tudors and it was their sword that Liam Neeson used in Batman Begins. But these days, they seem to be focused on textiles, “just like for Harry Potter, for Game of Thrones too our licenses are for the clothes only.”
The medieval props including Longclaw the legendary sword of Jon Snow are products of Lord of Battles (LoB), another Dehradun based company that creates medieval costumes for Hollywood films.
Capt. Saurabh Mahajan, the founder of LoB, was looking for an early retirement to assist his father in his adventure company when an Australian woman handed him a $1,500 contract to manufacture and export battle gear for a re-enactment agency in New Zealand. He says he wanted to do something in the civil sector and was exploring possibilities when this woman showed up in 2005. “I loved history and medieval times, even though in the first order I didn’t earn much; but I learned the nuances of running a manufacturing export house.”
The word of his work-ethic got around and in March 2005 he bagged another contract. This time from Swords from Toledo, a Spanish company that excels in manufacturing, buying and reselling medieval era gear. He made the order and used the same craftsmen to build his own manufacturing unit five years later. Today, LoB has 70 full-time artisans including women, and it encourages local Muslim women to work from home to make products such as chain mails. All products are handmade and manufactured on a 2 acre unit in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
The order sizes can vary depending on the container cost per shipment. Movies can fetch big orders while plays and theatre acts will have relatively small orders. According to Mahajan he gets 20-25 orders for movies, theatre, re-enactment and Live Action Role Playing (LARP) in a year. Copyright for the products is bought by companies that buy the items.
The speciality for the success of his products is the lightweight and high carbon steel that is used to manufacture the products— EN 45. He also imports wood and brass from Europe, Buffalo leather from Africa and Titanium from China. In the past 10 years, they must have supplied to hundreds of Hollywood, Russian and French movies. According to Mahajan, they aren’t even aware of most, as the products come through the prop companies. But he has confessed that Game of Thrones, seasons 4 and 5 had him on board. When the Starks finally reclaim Winterfell this season and take back the North, remember there might be a little bit of Dehradun on them.