Skip to main content

How ‘Bard of Blood’ brought Balochistan to India: ‘Created a madrasa in two days flat’

Production designer Sunil Nigvekar on re-imagining Pakistan in India for the Netflix spy series.

Devarsi Ghosh

An hour ago

Emraan Hashmi and Sobhita Dhulipala in Bard of Blood (2019) | Netflix

The latest Indian Netflix series Bard of Blood follows Indian intelligence agent Kabir (Emraan Hashmi), who goes deep inside Pakistan to rescue Indian spies captured by the Taliban. The bulk of the adaptation of Bilal Siddiqi’s novel is set in Pakistan, particularly the Balochistan region.

Following the tradition of American series and films such as Body of Lies (2008) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), a lot of the plot unfolds in locations that are strongholds of Islamic militants. “The references were plenty,” production designer Sunil Nigvekar said. “For instance, videos of camps of Baloch freedom fighters are readily available online.”


Nigvekar is, by his own admission, a specialist in films “that are of a gritty nature”. He got his big break as an art director for Road (2002), produced by Ram Gopal Varma. Nigvekar worked with Varma on a number of productions, including Sarkar (2005). Nigvekar’s other credits include Shootout at Lokhandwala (2007), A Wednesday (2008) and Tere Bin Laden (2010). In a conversation, 54-year-old Nigvekar took through the process of recreating Pakistan and terrorist outposts on Indian soil.

Pakistan in India

“We knew we wouldn’t get to shoot in Pakistan, of course. Years ago, I worked on Tere Bin Laden. The shoot in Pakistan had been sanctioned, but when we got down at the airport, we got to know that we weren’t allowed to shoot anymore. So, Pakistan had to be created in Mumbai. But I did a 10-12 day recce before the shoot at that time in Karachi and adjoining areas, which came in handy for Bard of Blood.

Bard of Blood was shot for about 70 days. We shot for 22 days in Leh and Ladakh, and around 20 days in Rajasthan. The other days were spent shooting in Mumbai. All the exterior shots of Pakistan and Balochistan were done in Leh and Ladakh. All the shots of the towns and the lanes in Pakistan were done in Rajasthan.


A majority of the set work happened in Mumbai. We did not have any big set. Most of the 34 sets of Bard of Blood were created for interior shots. The structure where Kabir and Tanveer Shehzad’s men have their first shootout in the flashback portion is a set, done with plaster of paris. The entire interior part of the madrasa which Mulla Khalid has made his base, as well as wherever Tanveer Shehzad is, are sets in Mumbai. The madrasa was created in two days flat, by the way. We matched the interior shots with the exterior locations in Leh, Ladakh and Rajasthan.

Bard of Blood. Courtesy Netflix.

This reminds me of Shootout At Lokhandwala, one of my first films as a production designer. In the entire climax, the building where the gangsters are holed up, plus the walls surrounding it, were all sets. The interior shots of the gangsters shooting at the cops were done elsewhere. Then the two were matched.

For the local scenes in Balochistan, I took references from the material I gathered during Tere Bin Laden. We had photos of shops, how the houses in Pakistan look from the inside, their furniture, all of that. I joined the project only 15 days before the shoot, so we were rushing to meet our deadlines. We sent out people everywhere to bring us props – the right carpets, upholstery, utensils. Some of these are only available in Pakistan, such as the big thaal which people eat from as a group sitting in a circle.

Bard of Blood. Courtesy Netflix.

The bakery where Kabir goes to get kidnapped by the Baloch nationalists was a set. So was the bathroom where he fights in the beginning. Of course, you can fight in a real bathroom too, but who will allow glass to be broken and their walls to be damaged?


Doing the pipeline explosion scene was interesting. This was shot in Sambhar, Rajasthan. The location was near salt pans, so already there were storage facilities that could be passed off as pipeline-related infrastructure. In the middle there was a broken bridge, which had been constructed to carry salt. We used that to create a 40, 45 feet long pipeline. The extensions to the pipeline were done by VFX.

Bard of Blood. Courtesy Netflix.

The most challenging part of the shoot was at a place near Khardungla Pass in Leh, which was 6,000 metres above sea level. This is where Kabir, Veer and Isha get engaged in the shootout at the first checkpoint. Most of the last two episodes, where Kabir chases Mulla, the shootouts, the explosions, were shot here. There was just a single road to reach that place, and we were a crew of 500. The weather was constantly windy and cloudy. Dust was flying all the time and getting into the actors’ eyes. On day one, the temperature was minus one centigrade. On the last day of shoot, it was minus 16.

Sunil Nigvekar.

The colour scheme was simple. The exteriors were to have earthy, rough colours, lots of reds, browns, blacks. The Leh portions were to be grey. The interiors were to be warmer and have different shades of green. Why green is associated with Islamic terrorism is something I don’t know. The Pakistani flag has green. And when I did the recce for Tere Bin Laden, I saw a lot of green in local architecture.”


Popular posts from this blog

SSG Commando Muddassir Iqbal of Pakistan Army

“ Commando Muddassir Iqbal was part of the team who conducted Army Public School operation on 16 December 2014. In this video he reveals that he along with other commandos was ordered to kill the innocent children inside school, when asked why should they kill children after killing all the terrorist he was told that it would be a chance to defame Taliban and get nation on the side. He and all other commandos killed children and later Taliban was blamed.
Muddassir Iqbal has deserted the military and now he is  with mujahedeen somewhere in AF PAK border area”
For authenticity of  this tape journalists can easy reach to his home town to interview his family members or   ISPR as he reveals his army service number”
Asalam o Alaikum: My name is Muddassir Iqbal. My father’s name is Naimat Ali. I belong to Sialkot divison (Punjab province), my village is Shamsher Poor and district, tehsil and post office  Narowal. Unfortunately I was working in Pakistan army. I feel embarrassed to tell you …

China's Raise as a Maritime Power

China's Rise as a Maritime PowerOcean Policy from Mao Zedong to Xi JinpingTAKEDA Jun’ichiSenkaku IslandsApr 23, 2014 PDF Download1. IntroductionThe international community has been viewing China's recent moves relating to the seas as representing "maritime expansion," and the Chinese themselves have come to talk about making their country a maritime power. In the political report he delivered in the autumn of 2012 to the eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which stands at the top of the country's power structure, General Secretary Hu Jintao declared, "We should enhance our capacity for exploiting marine resources, develop the marine economy, protect the marine ecological environment, resolutely safeguard China's maritime rights and interests, and build China into a maritime power."1 This was Hu's final report as the top leader of the CPC; after delivering it he stepped down from his posts as general secretary and chairm…

Guardians of the Belt and Road

Guardians of the Belt and RoadThe internationalization of China's private security companiesby Helena Legarda and Meia NouwensFollowing the build-up of infrastructure and investment projects along China’s extensive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), private security companies from China are also increasingly going global – to protect Chinese assets and the growing number of Chinese nationals living and working in countries along the BRI, in sometimes unstable regions. Out of the 5,000 registered Chinese private security companies, 20 provide international services, employing 3,200 security personnel in countries like Iraq, Sudan and Pakistan.The impact of this newly developing Chinese activity abroad is analyzed in this MERICS China Monitor. Chinese private security companies’ international activities pose a challenge to European interests as they are often largely unregulated and their security staff are often inexperienced in dealing with serious conflict situations and combat. EU …