“Zenos yae Galvus is an amazing character,” gushes professional cosplayer Sameer. He continues, “Even though he’s a villain, he is very passionate about the art of war and duelling. The look of that costume is so amazing, you can’t help but feel like a smug warlord; it becomes really easy to act like him. But I did learn his lines and mannerism to portray him believably in front of other fans.”
Anyone familiar with Sameer’s work knows when he cosplays, he goes big in every single way, and his commitment is inspiring to budding artistes in his field. Sameer has been doing cosplay for umpteen years now and he takes each project in stride.
Sameer Bundela, AKA At8
At the recent line-up of Comic Cons India, Sameer drew eyes, gasps and cheers for his recent cosplay as Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood’s Zenos yae Galvus which had him winning big at this year’s Maruti Suzuki Arena Indian Championship of Cosplay. As part of the prize deal, he will be heading to the three-day 2020 Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2e2), which kicks off on February 28, to compete.
When asked about the reactions to his cosplay, he laughs, “The reactions to my costume have been really amazing — both from the people who know the character and the people who didn’t. I got a lot of international recognition for it even before winning the championship. When a lot of people saw the photos of my cosplay online, they thought that it was some new official artwork posted by the company making the game itself.” He cheekily adds that scaring little kids on the Comic Con India floor is more satisfying than it should be.
The win leaves Sameer feeling proud, even though it is his fourth time representing India cosplay on a global scale. Last year, Sameer won ICC for his Skywrath Mage cosplay. In 2018, with his Night Stalker costume, the 29-year-old became the first Indian cosplayer to win a major international cosplay competition, The Kuala Lumpur Major. It is evident that this is not just a passion project, but his life. “Cosplay is one of the most amazing things that we’ve discovered as humans. The ability to be someone else for a day and make it socially acceptable is such a huge thing, of which the power people just don’t realise.”
Sameer still stays humble when it comes to recounting the many opportunities he has observed. “Cosplay has completely changed my life; I owe my business, social circle, recognition and even my travels to cosplay! It has provided me with so many opportunities and has helped me meet so many amazing people. I just want to play my part by making other people realise how fun and life changing cosplay can be. I’m glad that I was able to give something back to Indian cosplay community by bringing a few laurels to our country and I hope to keep doing it in the future, India has already arrived on the world cosplay map… and it’s only going to go big from here.”
While winning presents a thrill for Sameer, nothing gets his heart racing more than crafting his cosplays. With Zenos, it took him four months to complete, but he says there will be modifications made for the Chicago competition.
One has to wonder if picking something so intricate had him hesitating initially. “It certainly excited me, but I was afraid if I’ll be able to pull it off. C2e2 is a prestigious competition and I want to leave no stone unturned… Every year my goal is to try something new and learn how to work with new materials,” he explains, “This year, though, I wanted to focus on improving the skills that I had, and work with tools and mediums with which I was already comfortable. Zenos was perfect for it for the intricate design.”
Speaking of complex structures, Sameer points out that Zenos’ armour is “very organic” and has a lot of small parts, and making the entire ensemble seamless and still making all those difficult to construct curve were the most challenging aspects. “I had to number each small part so that I don’t mix them up; there’re literally thousands of foam pieces in this armour. After that, I had to do a lot of sculpting on the costume to make all the details. It all requires a lot of patience. The sword holster was also difficult to figure out; it needed to spin and house three swords, all the while being light enough so that I can carry it around.”
Who is Zenos yae Galvus?
- Zenos yae Galvus is a Resonant and the main antagonist boss in the Final Fantasy universe. He is a Legatus of the XIIth Imperial Legion and the son of emperor Varis zos Galvus. Raised as an heir apparent, he is conceited and ruthless using The Storm, The Swell, Ame-no-Habakiri for his weaponry.
Such efforts to create the costume were not of the solo variety. “No one person has all the tools and skills necessary to make everything. While the entirety of construction was done by me, I do seek guidance and help from my fellow cosplayers, who have expertise in other parts. Like my friend, Medha Srivastava [who won Fan Favourite at ICC 2020] helped me with the painting of the costume. Her insight and experience were very helpful in achieving the armour’s grungy and beaten metal look. Saurabh Rawat, who has a lot of experience working as an art director, helped me with some of the logistics and mechanisms of the costume.”
It is easy to wonder how Sameer will top this but history has shown that he takes on new challenges with ease. “That’s the thrill of it! I have a huge list, including a lot of costumes I’m even afraid to attempt right now. So there will be no shortage of topping this costume in the future, rest assured, I dress to impress!”