- ‘I Am Alive’ app gains popularity in terror-ravaged Lebanon
- Gun giveaways gain popularity among Republican candidates
- S.C. hospital worker slapped with $525 federal fine for refilling $0.89 soda
- Teen from ‘Jihad Jane’ plot becomes youngest ever to serve time on U.S. terror charges
- Iranian woman forgives son’s killer at the gallows
- Nebraska principal sorry for ‘don’t tattle’ flier
- Illinois readies to spend $100M for Obama museum in Chicago
- John Edwards back in court — this time as a lawyer for Va. boy’s malpractice case
- Covered California reports more than 200K in overtime Obamacare sign-ups
- Thanks, Chuck: Hagel says U.S. sending Ukraine sleeping mats, helmets
Indian businessman is weapons maker for Hollywood
Workshop churns out military gear for filmmakers
SAHIBABAD, India — On the outskirts of New Delhi, in a cramped concrete workshop where the air shimmers with the light of welding torches, an Indian businessman has become a master craftsman of Napoleonic swords. And medieval chain mail armor. And World War II hand grenades and helmets.
From Hollywood war movies to Japanese samurai films to battle re-enactments across Europe, Ashok Rai, 31, is one of the world’s go-to men for historic weapons and battle attire.
Mr. Rai’s workshop reverberates with the sounds of metal being hammered and beaten into chain mail, swords, axes, muskets, sabers, spears and helmets.
Mr. Rai, a trapshooting enthusiast, says he has been a history buff since childhood.
“I would watch every war movie that came to town. All my life, I’ve been reading up on all the major battles in history. Now when we make medieval battle gear it’s easy for me to explain to my craftsmen exactly what’s to be done.”
He dove into the business at age 17, when he heard a French champagne-maker needed 1,000 swords to give away as souvenirs.
Mr. Rai, whose father had a small factory making tourist handicrafts, traveled to the northern city of Amritsar, the holy city of the Sikh religion, to find sword-makers to make the replicas.
“It took some doing to get the order ready on time. But it got me thinking,” said Mr. Rai. “Here was a niche worth exploring.”
Soon, he dropped out of college, transforming his father’s company to specialize in battle attire and weapons stretching from the 10th century to World War II.
Shortly afterward, he said he had a surprise visit from filmmakers preparing for the Tom Cruise movie “The Last Samurai.”
That led to dozens of orders for all kinds of props for historical movies and documentary films, from Napoleon-era swords to American Revolutionary muskets and sabers to World War II helmets and uniforms.
Mr. Rai was in business.
Other Hollywood blockbusters followed. He says he has made footwear for the Russell Crowe movie “Robin Hood,” and chain mail for “Kingdom of Heaven,” the Orlando Bloom film set during the 12th-century Crusades.
These days, though, Mr. Rai is shifting from Hollywood to battle re-enactments. It’s a big business, particularly in Europe, and unlike Hollywood — where weapons are made just to look good, and often are made from lightweight metal or plastic — he likes making weapons that have the heft of the originals.
Mr. Rai has set up his own company in Germany to market battle gear to re-enactors and medieval fairs, and tied up with a Spanish company to rent uniforms and equipment to documentary filmmakers.
TWT Video Picks
By John R. Bolton
Reality calls for attaching Gaza to Egypt and the West Bank to Jordan
- Obama taunts GOP, takes nationally televised victory lap on Obamacare
- Joe Biden's first Instagram pic mocked as shill for sunglass ad
- Jews being told to register in Ukraine: John Kerry
- BOLTON: A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- Rand and Ron Paul ride to the rescue for Bundy in Nevada standoff with feds
- Cliven Bundy's Nevada ranch wrecked by retreating feds
- CURL: The state of the Union worse than you thought
- 'Culture of intimidation' seen in Nevada ranch standoff
- CNN op-ed claims right-wingers 'more deadly than jihadists'
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.