Behind the scenes

What lies behind the armour in ‘Padmavati’: Honour for Shahid and invasion for Ranveer

The battle gear worn by the characters in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s historical were created by luxury brand V Renaissance.

What goes into the making of armour in a historical production?

If it is for a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, ergonomics, robotics, and a 300-year-old technique of making vintage leather, according to designers Vipul Amar and Harsheen Arora. The owners of luxury brand V Renaissance in Delhi, which specialises in leather products, along with a team of artists and technicians, created armour for the characters Rawal Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) and Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh) in Padmavati. The movie will be released on December 1.

The team created three types of armour over eight months, one for Kapoor and two for Singh. “We first created one armour for the initial battles fought by Khilji,” Arora said. “Then, they asked us to create one for Ratan Singh as well. Bhansali was so happy with the armour we created that he asked us to create one for Khilji’s final battle as well.”

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Padmavati (2017).

Earlier this year, Amar and Arora had worked on Sushant Singh Rajput’s costumes in Dinesh Vijan’s Raabta. “Designer Maxima Basu, known for her work in Bajirao Mastani, got in touch with us for Raabta,” Amar said. “If you remember the chest plate that Sushant Singh wears in the film, the leather work on it was designed by us. It was Basu again who introduced us to Padmavati and its team and recommended us for the armoury work.”

Working with Bhansali was a whole new challenge. “Bhansali is very particular about detail and so, it was imperative for us to understand his vision of the characters,” Arora said. “Once we were briefed about the characters, we did our own research too. We wanted to understand what kind of armour was made during 1300 AD for a person in a specific position in the army. Then we studied the armour worn by the sultans, maharajas and Rajputs of that time. We also researched about the resources available to artisans making armour at that time.”

Even if it was for a film, Amar and Arora wanted to make sure that their creations were functional and protected the actors who wore them.

“The purpose of any armour is to protect the warrior from an attack,” said Arora. “It has to act as a shield. So, even if it is just a film and the armour is going to be worn during an action sequence, we wanted to make sure that it acts as a buffer for the actor. At the same time, we also did not want to make the armours too heavy. They should be practical and wearable for a shoot. We consulted an engineer who checked the robotics of the armour. The way robots move, that’s how the armour needs to move. It needs to be a second skin to the warrior.”

The pair employed time-tested techniques, including sculpting, chiselling and inlaying, to make sure that the metal and leather did not weigh down the actors. “Also, if you see the trailer and notice Maharaja Ratan Singh’s armour, the chest part in particular, has a very specific kind of leather that you cannot find in the market,” Amar said. “We have a very special process of creating it since we specialise in making vintage leather that we believe was in vogue around 300 years back.”

Shahid Kapoor in Padmavati.
Shahid Kapoor in Padmavati.

While Amar is a designer, Arora is a psychologist – training that helps in designing armour, according to her. “Ratan Singh is the embodiment of love and patriotism while Alauddin Khilji embodies conquest and invasion,” Arora said. “Interestingly, even though the same materials have been used in their armours, they have been treated differently to depict their opposing personalities.”

For Ratan Singh, Arora brought in elements that represent nobility and honour. “Even the colours used for Shahid’s armour show just that,” she explained. “The blood red depicts honour, love, and eagerness to serve one’s land and the deep gold stands for courage, generosity and passion. The design elements in Shahid Kapoor’s armour are inspired by the sun rays and the chest-plate is coloured like the Rajputana soil at different times of the day.”

Khilji’s armour was dramatically different. “The leather lions on his shoulders show his strong-headedness,” Arora said. “The lions have been chiselled and hammered, which is also symbolic of Khilji’s conquest. Also, the darkness of the character has been enhanced by engraving reptile scales on the lion heads.”

Over 11,000 man hours went into the creation of the armour. The team included around 50 artists and technicians from carpenters, painters, mechanics and engineers. “We are basically a luxury brand and the base material that we work with is leather,” Amar said. “So we specialise in anything to do with leather – luggage bags, furniture, clothes. In our business, we tend to use many kinds of workmanship from carpentry, to painting jobs to specialised sculptors. So, even with the armours, we have created them by amalgamating a variety of processes. We even used a team that works on the repair of cars and vehicles.”

Harsheen Arora and Vipul Amar.
Harsheen Arora and Vipul Amar.
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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.