"To be a swordsman in Rajasthan is regarded as a venerated
position and I was treated with the greatest courtesy and respect
by all I met."
Richard Bonehill is a fighting double, Sword Master and Fight
Director who has worked in the film industry for 25 years.
On the afternoon of the 21st December,
my flight made its final descent to Heathrow Airport. Quite a
shock as I had not seen a single cloud in six weeks. I had been
working in Rajasthan as Sword Master on Sharpes Challenge.
Fans of the original television series filmed between 1993 and
1997 will remember Sharpes exciting adventures, and the
two new films promise to be more spectacular and certainly more
swashbuckling than ever. My job as Sword Master involved choreographing
eleven fights and working alongside the Stunt Co-ordinator Gareth
Milne in the staging of a number of spectacular battle sequences.
The main two locations in Rajasthan
were the awe inspiring Jaigarh Fort in Jaipur and the breathtaking
Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur. Their size, complexity and location
(both set on top of almost vertical 150 meter high cliffs) makes
it no surprise that neither were ever conquered. One giant gateway
after another, complete with iron spikes on the gates to stop
war elephants pushing them down, lead to successive courtyards
which would become impassable killing fields. One cannot imagine
any army conquering these magnificent fortifications without
modern day air support or nuclear weapons. Their sheer size is
Our fighting teams consisted
of 10 Russian Stuntmen (veterans of the original series, excellent
performers, hard men and hard drinkers!) 20 Indian stuntmen and
up to 350 Indian extras. Add to this happy band horses, elephants,
camels, goats, pigs, donkeys and some idea of the complexity
of the shooting can be imagined.
Days - and also a week of night shoots
- were spent in temperatures in the 80s, fighting and dying.
It is a great testament to the professionalism to all those involved
that over the nine action-packed weeks of shooting no injuries
were sustained. Evenings were spent having dinner under the stars,
usually by the pool and the one day a week off spent sunbathing
and relaxing. One such day I visited the Holy City of Pushka
to witness the biggest camel and horse fair in India. A fascinating
experience I will never forget, which culminated in watching
the sun set over the sacred lake.
To be a swordsman in Rajasthan is regarded
as a venerated position and I was treated with the greatest courtesy
and respect by all I met. One of my most treasured memories of
the trip will be the evening I spent with His Highness The Maharaja
of Jaipur as his honoured guest for dinner in his Magnificent
Diggi Palace. The Maharaja (Nicco to his friends) had loaned
some of his polo ponies to the production and his graciousness
and that of his family was overwhelming.
It is impossible in so few words to
convey the beauty of such a wonderful country. It is a continent
of extremes. Poverty of biblical proportions exists along side
extreme wealth. There is great beauty and unspeakable ugliness,
but my abiding memory of my trip will be the friendliness and
warmth of the Indian people. If you ever get the chance to visit
this fascinating continent grab it with both hands, but remember
to have all the necessary injections!