The story, screenplay, dialogues, songs, etc connive to churn out a super hit and a make-up artist enables a star to transform into the character he is playing — one need not explain further why make-up artists are important to a movie’s success. Make-up is the single most essential element of a movie, play, magazine photo shoot, high definition, airbrushing and even weddings but here we’ll focus on what the silver screen offers aspiring beauticians.
“There is no formal way to learn make-up in India,” says veteran artist Banu Bashyam. The first thing an aspiring make-up artist needs to know is you don’t get it easy here. “Just like how students in mainstream courses spend four years to master the subject, similarly, an aspiring artist has to work with an established person (earning a stipend of `150 a day), learn the nuances of the art and only then can he go independent,” adds Bashyam. Experience is
everything in the industry, which may be another reason why there are no dedicated make-up courses in India.
But N Sampath, executive director, Kryolan (a cosmetics brand) runs the Kryolan Professional Make-up Academy in Chennai that offers short-term (three-four days) and month-long courses across all verticals. He says, “Teaching in this sector needs to be professionalised. In Germany one needs to undergo a three-year course to be eligible for a profession in the beauty industry.”
After completing apprenticeship with a make-up artist one can register with the South India Cine Make-Up Artists Union to enter the industry. “One has to work as a make-up artist in the TV industry for at least a year before entering filmdom. That is a union rule,” adds P Nagarajan, another senior make-up artist from Kollywood.
The union’s word is always the last one. And a major issue that has rocked the industry ever since its inception is the rule that only men can be make-up artists, women should work as hairdressers. Bashyam also had to deal with this bias — the union has, of course, now permitted her to work as a make-up artist. “Now the industry needs women artists and the union can’t say no. We need people with the know how and if women have the knowledge, why not,” reasons Nagarajan who mostly works with actor Vijay and is now deciding the look of actors Srikanth and Jeeva for the
Jack of all trades
In Indian film industry, there are just two kinds of people — make-up artists and hairdressers. This is not the case abroad — there is one person for every department. “In India we do more or less everything — be it designing the look, prosthetic make-up, high-definition make up, it is done by one person,” says Bashyam who is the brain behind Rajinikanth’s looks in Enthiran - The Robot.
“Now, technology has changed across all media and the industry needs trained hands in the field. People who understand the medium are in demand,” says Sampath. Nagarajan, who has much experience in designing looks for burn victims and similar characters, says, “Right from placing the wig on the head, we do it all. I not only make the female-lead look like a glam-doll, I also gouge out the villain’s eye”.