Society

Dressing up vintage warriors

STANDING TALL Saurabh Mahajan

STANDING TALL Saurabh Mahajan

Where did the shinning armours in Michael Fassbender-starrer Assassin’s Creed or for that matter gorgets worn in the Merlin series comefrom? One doesn’t have to look far as Lord of Battles is decking up fighters in foreign films, serials and plays. Based out of Dehradun, the company founded by ex-Army captain Saurabh Mahajan in 2005 has moved from strength to strength. Starting out with a single order, it today has 110 craftsmen working at a state-of-the-art factory spread in a two acre plot in Saharanpur with ancillary units at Roorkee, Meerut and Nagina.

Son of an army officer, Mahajan was always fascinated by ceremonial uniforms and armaments displayed in the Army mess since childhood. “I would watch the same things again and again for hours much to the surprise of my friends,” he relates. Following his father’s footsteps, Mahajan got commissioned in the Armoured Corps.

In an interaction, Mahajan talks about his much sought after armours.

The catalyst

After seven years in the Army, I was looking for a new venture. The creative streak and the gene of enterprise came to fore and my mind went back to those ceremonial dresses and armaments I had grown up seeing. In 2005, with just three craftsmen I set up a small workshop making chainmails.

His first order

I met by chance Jenny Tribe, a free lancer who acted as a go between buyers and sellers of theatre props and products. When she informed me that she had procured chainmails from Poland and Ukraine, I got interested. On knowing that I too make them, she asked me to supply them.

Range of props

Starting with chainmails, now we manufacture plate armour, leather armour, shields, camping items, axes, medieval clothing, nautical items, Viking helmets, gauntlets, sabatons, halberd, etc. Our foray into theatre happened when London’s Royal Shakespeare Company obtained plate armours, shields and medieval dresses of Shakespearean era like tunics, etc. Soon National Theatre in London followed suit and procured arms and war gear belonging to Viking and Roman eras including horns and shoes.

Television debut came with British fantasy-adventure television programme Merlin who bought aluminium chainmails and medieval garments like tunics and cloaks. Some of the items they ordered were gorgets (metal protection of neck), pauldrons (protection for shoulders), leggings and chainmail cois (worn on head).

A scene from Merlin

A scene from Merlin

Then movies happened. The first was The Treasure of Lake Kaban , a Russian film where we supplied coins, maces, shields, axes, swords and daggers. Then came Game of Thrones , The Hobbit series of adventure/fantasy films and French movie Excalibur . Recently, we made titanium chainmails for Hollywood blockbuster Assassin’s Creed starring Michael Fassbender.

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones

Process of creation

Most of the products are handmade and prepared using the traditional methods . If metal has to be smelted in a furnace used in past, we do that. If the object was hammered with hand or if the leather product was hand stitched, we do that as well. That is one reason we have an edge over Chinese goods in the international market in this segment.

Costume designer Nicole Young of Pinewood Studios rewarded my chainmail craftsmen Vikram Singh Bartwal a princely sum of 200 pounds for creating a perfect sample just by seeing the picture.

Challenges in execution

Making the products never entailed any problem because most clients send a specimen or a number of photographs. Our craftsmen are so smartthat they are able to make an exact replica of them. In fact, Jenny found the prototype of the chainmail we made better than the sample she had sent us.

Finding karigars is an uphill task, though. I still remember for getting a small leather product I went to the interiors of Kanpur and the mosquito-infested Nagina.

As an ex-forces person, I made the karigars understand the value of discipline, punctuality and integrity and even today many of them, in private, call me ‘karak fauji’ (tough armyman).

Making it real

The foreign buyers insist on authenticity and quality and any slip is not taken lightly. Since our reputation has grown by word of mouth, LoB ensures that this is adhered to. We regularly visit museums, castles, châteaus and forts across the globe. Recently, we went to Wallace Collection of arms and armaments which boasts of more than 2500 items. Likewise, there is the famous Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds with displays dedicated to ancient and medieval warfare. In fact, our research team of eight has two specialists from France. They are well-versed in war history.

Size and comfort

Those into the business of re-enactments want products made of real and solid metal but in case of films they want it made of light material and comfortable because actors have to do actions scenes wearing them. For example, a steel hauberk made of mild steel for re-enactment would weigh 14 kilograms while that for movies has to be five kilograms or less. So for that we use aluminium but give it a steel finish with a special spray. Movies have big budgets so they can also order products made of titanium, light and tough though five times more expensive.

The way forward

I can’t set up a museum on war history on my own but will definitely like to collaborate with an organisation or individual who wants to set up one. Right now, I try to achieve it by giving people a round in my showroom.

True to the period

Special titanium hauberk for Michael Fassbender in Assassin’s Creed besides chainmail collars, shoulders and skirts and hat helmets for others including Michael K. Williams.

Authentic pauldrons and gorgets for the cast of Game of Thrones , which included

Nikolia Coster-Waldau and Kit Harington

Garments and protective gear worn by Colin Morgan and Bradley James in Merlin series


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