Relaxing on a cozy sofa at their "Khukhri" factory on the outskirts of Dehra Dun, the capital of Uttarakhand, Sudhir Windlass and his son Ranit chat about Iron Man, the Hollywood film that the two are waiting for quite anxiously. To be released next month, Iron Man is directed by Jon Favreau and features Robert Downey Jr.
The father-son duo has a good reason to be excited about the release of the Hollywood flick on the comic book character -- all the replicas of helmets used in the film have been supplied by Windlass Steelcrafts, locally known as the "Khukhri" factory at Balawala in Dehra Dun.
To be sure, Iron Man is not the first film for which Windlass Steelcrafts, a 100 per cent export oriented unit, is manufacturing battle props. Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, Russell Crow-starrer Gladiator, The Lord of the Rings, Troy and the Mummy Returns are among the top Hollywood blockbusters which have used battle-gear and armaments supplied by the company.
"We have been supplying replicas of battle-gear like swords, sabers and helmets to Hollywood," says the 54-year-old Sudhir Windlass, who owns the company. Steelcrafts' brush with Hollywood began in 1979 when it started supplying swords to American studios.
There's been no looking back ever since. The swords are not merely decorative items, "You can even fight with them," says Windlass. Though Kingdom of Heaven turned controversial and the director was threatened by Muslim fundamentalists, its helmets, swords and armour manufactured at Windlass remained a special attraction of the film.
Currently, the Rs 20-crore (Rs 200 million) company makes three types of products: collectors' items, edged weapons for the world's elite armed forces and replicas for Hollywood movies. The company exports 40,000 to 50,000 swords and 10,000 helmets every year.
"People want to possess a piece of history. For that, they can only have replicas. So we produce collectors' items," says Windlass.
In the defence sector, the company is the official supplier of swords to the US marines. "We have supplied nearly 50,000 swords to the US marines," he says.
Largely dependent on the US for business, Windlass Steelcrafts sells through Atlanta Cutlery Corp and Museum Replicas Ltd. But now the company intends to go global. It is setting up a new office at Hamburg in Germany from where it intends to supply European history swords and other items.
IK Chadha, general manager (operations) says that the the company is also supplying material to countries like Britain, Canada, Australia, Columbia, Chile, Brunei, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and other countries.
Windlass, meanwhile, claims that the closure of the UK-based Wilkenson, a major company in this sector, has left the field open for the Dehra Dun company to foray in that market. Recently, the company bagged licenses for movies like Star Wars and Walt Disney's Chronicles of Narnia-II.
For quality control, the ISO 2000 company spends Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) a year. "Our products are very true to the original. We send our people abroad to see the products in various museums," Windlass says.
In the next five years, the company has set a target of doubling its turnover to Rs 40 crore (Rs 400 million).