‘Look’ Who’s Talking!

With actors willing to experiment with their on-screen identities, make-up artists and hair stylists are becoming a central part of the creative process of filmmaking

An actor’s on-screen persona depends not only on the star’s acting skills but on a creative process that will always remain behind the scenes. Working hard to etch out characters out of actors are make-up artists and hair stylists, who do much more than just slap on foundation and flick a few strands of hair. Make-up and hair styling are literally an extension of the director’s vision.

Actors of yesteryears wore a signature look throughout their careers and very rarely experimented with their look. So whether it was Sadhana’s famous hairstyle, Sharmila Tagore’s carefully sculpted coiffure or Dharmendra’s brushed-back hair, their on-screen look didn’t change.

But today, actors are willing to experiment with their look to suit their characters. Thus, make-up artists and hair stylists have become an integral part of filmmaking. From sitting in on meetings, reading scripts to familiarising themselves with the characters, to brainstorming with the director, their role has become more central than ever before.We spoke to a few make-up artists and hair stylists from the industry on what goes into creating the on-screen persona of our actors. Here’s what they had to say…

Hakim Aalim, Hair Stylist

Working on the look of a character is team work. The director, designer and the actor are all involved in the process. We definitely offer our suggestions. The hair styling for the actor depends on the demands of the character. Even though we try tomake it look realistic, it has to be larger than life because it is for a film. It has to be contemporary, and attract the attention of the audience. Technology has made things easy for us and new products have made it better.

Working on Ranbir Kapoor’s hair in Rockstar was challenging since his character goes through a transition phase. Sanjay Dutt’s hair styling for Musafir, and Saif Ali Khan’s hairstyle in Omkara were all very challenging. Sanjay Dutt and Ajay Devgn are two actors who are willing to experiment a whole lot and trust my suggestions. In Agent Vinod, Saif sports short hair and a beard. This was my suggestion and he accepted it.
Deepak Sawant, Make-Up Artist         

I have been working with Amitabh Bachchan for more than 36 years now. Amitji makes me sit with him during his character brief. I sit in on meetings and decide what look will go with a certain character.While other make-up artists work on a character basis, I work on a scene basis; that is, I do the make-up according to the scene. For example, if it is an emotional scene, I put on a little oily make-up, which makes the ‘look’ believable. If it’s a tough scene, I use harsh make-up. If it’s a fight scene, I use reddish make-up.

When Amitji was shooting for Sholay’s bomb blast scene, I asked him to give me the clothes he would be wearing for the scene. I crushed them on a stone and used red colour for blood stains. Amitji and the director loved the look. Applying make-up is like painting. A painter paints non-living things, while a make-up artist paint a living being. In both instances, it looks real. That’s the effect of make-up.
Jaywant Thackeray, Make-Up Artist

Every character is the director’s vision and we have to work to fulfil it. I have been working in this industry for a long time and also take part in the creative aspect of a film. For example, when director Deepak S Shivdasani was looking for a fresh face for the leading lady of Julie, I spotted Neha Dhupia at an event and recommended her. But we still didn’t have any producers for the film. So we did a photo shoot with her and she looked absolutely stunning. The very next day, we had many producers lined up! So before finalising the look, we do a few photo shoots and the director decides what he wants.

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