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The man who makes historical props for Game of Thrones

CultureThe man who makes historical props for Game of Thrones
In 2005, with the help of just three craftsmen Captain Saurabh Mahajan, a former Army officer, set up a small workshop to make historical artefacts within his house in Dehradun. Initially he started sending chain mails to prospective buyers, but his one meeting with a person called Jenny Tribe, from Australia, changed his life. She placed the first order for$1500. And that’s how Lord of Battles, Mahajan’s firm, took off. Then was no looking back.

After spending four years training in the National Defence Academy and serving seven years in the Army, Mahajan began looking for a new venture. The creative streak and the gene of enterprise in him started surfacing. He wanted to do something worthwhile and to continue, in one way or another, serving his country. 

His mind went back to his Army days as he remembered those ceremonial dresses, epaulets and armaments which he had grown up seeing his father, and then himself, wear for years. So, he decided to set up Lord of Battles, which manufactures and exports model ancient weaponry and armour of the medieval era to big theatre groups and film studios around the world.

To create the best products, he and his team started researching sources for raw material and other goods. And eventually his venture received a much-needed boost.

“With 11 years of quality work, we are reputed and well-known in this field. We have supplied innumerable props to many famous production houses and theaters, like Fire & blood Productions Ltd., Pinewood Studios, Toom Production Ltd., TCFFTV UK Productions Ltd., Road’s End Films, Shine TV Ltd., Royal  Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare Globe, National Theatre of Nice, IVAN  Production, and many more. Our punctuality, quality and honest work attributes spread by word of mouth. Filmmakers get in touch with us through their costume designers. The costume designers send us photos and samples. They even visit us at times to get their samples made,” Mahajan tells Guardian 20. 

In early 2011, an American fantasy drama television series created a huge buzz internationally: it’s called Game of Thrones. From its several plot lines to large ensemble cast, Game of Thrones attracted record viewership. As the series is set in the medieval era, ancient weaponry and armour featured in this series is a visual delight. And Lord of Battles was one of the companies that supplied this material to GoT for seasons four and five. Not only this, from there on, Mahajan’s products made their presence felt in Hollywood, as well as in the Russian and French film industries, with films like The Hobbit, Bastard Executioner, Kolovrat, The Treasures of Lake Kaban, and Excalibur among others.

Mahajan’s products made their presence felt in Hollywood, as well as in the Russian and French film industries, with films like The Hobbit, Bastard Executioner, Kolovrat, The Treasures of Lake Kaban, and Excalibur among others.

Talking about the research process, Mahajan says, “Our sampling unit at Dehradun functions as my research and development centre. We are constantly designing new products. We often use the leftovers of leather and steel waste to make miniature gift items like mini helmets, which are very popular as memorabilia and gifts. We have made neckties, liquor bottle covers, teddy bears, which are being sold in gift shops in Europe. Research is an ongoing process. It keeps us ever alert to new ideas and innovations.”

Mahajan could be walking on the streets of Venice or the Mall Road in Mussoorie in India, he always keeps his eyes open for anything that might trigger inspiration. He also believes that his venture is “Indian at heart and global in spirit”.

An artist at work.

Lord of Battles now consists of a 130-member team that creates a whole range model armour and battle gear. Besides, they are also producing medieval costumes for their clients. But how do they ensure the weapons manufactured resemble the actual designs and armoury that were in use, say in the Roman era or any other historical period? Mahajan says, “Making regular visits to museums, castles across the globe helps me a lot. Referring to books on history and consulting various encyclopedia is also a great help. We recently visited the Wallace Collection Museum in London and also Royal Armoury Museum in Leeds with my team, which was a great learning experience.”

Also, most of their products are handmade, including the model weaponry and armour. All parts are separately made by use of dyes, hammers, chisels and files. The filmmakers also instruct on what kind of model weaponry do they need. “We are briefed in advance. Like, some products are selected from our inventory and some are as per the sample sent by buyers or photos from museums, medieval books or history books,” says Mahajan. 

To create authentic props, Mahajan is working with some of the best artisans who have specialised into this craft. The company has master craftsmen and artisans with tons of experience for the special designs and for specific orders of their buyers. He says, “We have craftsmen from Kanpur, Calcutta, Assam and Jaipur. We also have craftsmen for special metal polishing who have been working with us for last two years.”

Capt. Saurabh Mahajan.

But for Mahajan, competing with European and Chinese players with two leading Indian companies, who are in same field, is not easy. For him, any competition is healthy. He says, “Competition helps in creating better products. But we owe gratitude to an enterprising French buyer, Gabriel Vimar, whom we now we call ‘French Brother’ and who gave us many ideas on developing new products. His ideas and inputs meant a lot to us and have helped us all through. We have visited many Renaissance and LARP fairs, museums and castles together to create some of the best products.”


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