Two hundred craftsmen worked for 600 days, moulded 400 kg of gold and precious and semi-precious stones to recreate jewelleries of Mughal era in Ashutosh Gowariker's historical romance Jodhaa Akbar, releasing Feb 15.
Tanishq, the leading jewellery brand, unveiled the jewellery worn by Aishwarya Rai, who plays the Rajput princess Jodhabai, and Hrithik Roshan, who plays Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Akbar, in the movie.
The exquisite pieces include sarpech (feather pin), archer's ring, arsi (mirror ring), bhor (head jewel like in Indian tika) and hansali (choker).
"The wedding set, which Aishwarya wears in the film, is very heavy. It weighs around three-and-a-half kg. It was difficult for her to wear them. In fact, in the interviews she said the hardest part was to wear the jewellery,” said Alpana Parida, head marketing & merchandising at Tanishq. “But that was how women lived those days and it is authentic."
A blend of Mughal and Rajasthani designs, the handcrafted jewels on display in Delhi are breathtakingly beautiful and give an insight into India's glorious past.
"I think if everything is put together then the total weight will be about 300 kg and it's a huge investment on the part of the company,” said Parida. “We have made 13 ensembles for Aishwarya and eight for Hrithik. We have used gold and gems like emeralds, pearls, ruby, tourmaline and jade."
However, she refused divulge the budget.
This is Tanishq's second film venture. Earlier, they collaborated with Shah Rukh Khan for his home production Paheli.
"We had done jewellery for Paheli, which was at a much smaller scale because it was Rajasthani jewellery and there wasn't any other definition."
"Jodhaa Akbar became a design and research challenge because it had to be the specific Rajput and Mughal traditions of the 16th century and there was very little available from that time,” said Parida. “It was a research from the combination of miniature paintings, Akbarnama and old royal families. We also did a lot of research in museums and archives, private collection of various royalties and at the Chitrakala Parishad."
Ask her about the basic difference between Mughal and Rajput jewellery, Parida said: "The basic difference was that Mughal jewellery was much finer in craftsmanship and Rajput jewellery was more rustic. At that time, Mughals used a lot more pearls than the Rajputs did."
"Akbar's favourite gem was the emerald. In Akbarnama there are actually blue prints of emerald mines, which Akbar had started and wherever you see him, he wears emeralds, which is the symbol of power."
Ornaments were created keeping in mind its relevance to the two rich Indian traditions. It was a tedious job for the team working on the jewellery to find details about Jodhabai's jewels.
"For Akbar, we had a lot more literal references, but for Jodha there were very few. We got references from Rajput designs of that time, used motifs that were prevalent at that time, architecture, miniature paintings and through existing pieces from that time."
In the 16th century, Rajput women use to wear 12 pieces of jewellery. "Starting with the borla [hair pins] to the anklets, we made sure that we followed the same definition of an ensemble."
In India, traditionally skills are passed down from one generation to other.
"We unearthed craftsmen. In one particular case, we hired three generations of craftsmen to work on the jewellery. The older generation was not even making jewellery anymore, but we found him in Rajasthan and got him to work for us."
The designs are mostly kundan and meenakari–inlay work common to Rajasthan. "The interesting thing about most kundan and meenakari is as many as five craftsman worked on one single piece. One made the mould, another set the stone, one inlaid the pearls and others made the colourful meenakari work. So, each jewel takes a long time to craft. It's not factory-made. The jewellery was handcrafted.
"Women used to wear large thumb rings with mirrors so that they could see their faces in the mirror. Now, setting a mirror in that mould is a special skill and it doesn't exist today. So we had to find craftsman who could recreate it," Parida said.
Tanishq has no plan to sell these jewels.
"This is a labour of love. Second, it's not wearable because the jewellery is heavy. We have launched the prÃªt collection which is inspired from the Jodhaa Akbar line but as of now, we don't intend to sell it."
Talking about future plans, Parida said: "We are looking to do films, but only those where jewellery is integral to the film. We don't want to be the part of the props. We want to be the design leaders. Our experience while working on Jodhaa Akbar was fantastic."