Vidya Dhar

I have been fond of films since childhood and would sneak into theatres to watch films even as a schoolboy. One day I happened to visit Pandhari Dada, my cousin and saw the process of a beardgetting made. Noticing my interest, he asked me if I would be interested in learning how to weave a beard. Excited, I agreed immediately. It was December 1973 and I was in class 11 and this is how I was initiated into the world of make-up, by weaving a beard.

Once Pandhari Dada was unable to find an assistant for a film. So to resolve this crisis, he took me along to the sets of the film, Bhounj. I was very happy to accompany him. Around that time, Yash ji was also starting his film, Deewar. I think Pandhari Dada had liked my approach towards work and appreciated my efforts. So he kept me on as an assistant on Deewar and that is how I started my career in films in 1974.

Apart from assisting him in films, I was involved in regional cinema also. Around 1976, I worked in 8-9 Gujarati films. Gujarati films were typically of shorter duration and could be shot in 30 days or so. It was ironic that I would be paid Rs. 5000 per regional filmand only Rs. 300 p.m. working with big banners. But of course, the exposure there was amazing.

The Advertising industry was also flourishing in the early 1980’s. For a Surf shoot by director, Shyam Benegal a make-up artist was urgently required and Pandhari Dada was out of town. I took it up on his behalf and then there was no looking back, I got a tremendous amount of work and appreciation from the Advertising industry. I ended up working a lot with Prahlad Kakkar’s production house as well.

Make-up can make a huge difference to the approach of a film. Good make-up embosses certain features of the character which can give a different impact altogether. There needs to be a different approach when doing the make-up for different faces; it depends on the facial structure of the person. For example, with make-up we can sharpen jawlines, make noses look bigger or thinner, only by using shading and lighting techniques well. Make up is an art that can enhance and transform features – eyes become more beautiful, lips have the perfect shape etc.

The face is the most prominent part of the body and eye make-up is the most crucial task for a make-up artist. While putting artificial eyelashes it is important to ensure that the ends are not visible, they need to look like original eyelashes. Even the shadow, the colors and the lining have to appear seamless. What is most important is that makeup is done in such a manner that it looks original rather than artificial.

Before starting the make-up of a model or actress, I first analyze the skin tone and complexion. I try not to change a person’s natural skin color ever. Indians typically have a darker skin tone compared to some foreigners; I try to retain the natural beauty of our skin tone.If a person’s skin is clear, I recommend keeping the make-up as light and invisible as possible, so it looks natural and like they haven’t applied anything. If there are marks, blemishes or pimples, those can be covered up by using heavier make-up.

After working for over 40 years, I don’t need a palette or numbers to decide which shade needs to be used for whom. I take these decisions on the spot. Also with time the techniques that are used change. We use foundation and powder on the face so it doesn’t look greasy. In the past we used the water spray technique to de-tone and remove the excess powder from the face. But now we use brushes to apply powder. There used to be a time when only Max Factor and Kryolan products were available. But today there are many choices – I recommend using CoverFXproducts, as they don’t appear very heavy and also Derma products.

There are two kinds of make-up – glamour make-up and prosthetics that use special effects to change the face of a person completely, like Mr. Dilip Prabhavalkar’s make-up in Lage Raho Munnabhai where I had to transform his face to look like Mahatma Gandhi. I have been working with both kinds of make-up from the beginning of my career. I still remember working on ‘Shirdi ke Sai Baba’ when the concept of a bald cap did not exist! We made a bald cap out of a baniyaan (vest). But today the techniques are very advanced. I make sure that I meet with prosthetics specialists in Canada and London from time to time to keep myself updated on the latest techniques.

The camera catches everything. So it is very important that it is a collaborative process, a joint effort. For instance, we used a baniyaan in ‘Shirdi ke Sai Baba’ but it wasn’t evident on screen. Gautam Rajadhyaksha was one such photographer who would make every face appear beautiful through his lighting. So the cinematographer, the make-up artist and everyone else like the lightmen, the costume designers etc. have to work in tandem to ensure a flawless look. Every make-up artist’s work can only look beautiful on screen if the lighting and cinematography complements it.

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