Make-up artist Banu
Interviewer : Daya Kingston | Text : Daya Kingston
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Make-up artist Banu is one of the most sought-after artists in Kollywood. Having worked with the biggest stars Superstar Rajinikanth, Vikram, Suriya, Aishwarya Rai, Nayantara, Trisha and others, she has an enviable portfolio. Her recent work in Endhiran has come in for praise from many quarters and we catch up with her.

Did you undertake any formal training for this profession?

I did a beautician course in Mumbai at Emerald. Following this, I went to the USA and learnt make-up at Bob Kelly’s make-up institute. I came back here and started doing a lot of advertising.

What was your first ad?

Nivaran 90.

How is working on an ad film different from working on a film?

Ads are very creative and more detailed. In 20 or 30 seconds, you have to power-pack it. Films are larger than life and they look at an overall effect.

How did you get your first break?

My first break was in a Priyadarshan film when he was shooting in the USA. It was a Malayalam film starring Mohanlal. Then when I returned to India, I started doing TV commercials.

Initially you had problems in the industry, how did you solve them?

There were no female make-up artists and they felt that women should only be hairdressers and not make-up artists. I was used to doing ad films and setting looks for many films and wanted to work on films. They did not want someone who was working in ad films and at that point I fought back and got more offers to do films.

Before that, I was just doing song sequences. I have set looks for Mani Rathnam’s films, Murgadoss’s film and Shankar’s films, so many. For Jo in Kakha Kakha, the dark kajal line. In Anniyan, I did Vikram’s three distinct characters.

What are your favorite films?

Every film is a new experience, you learn by your mistakes and that’s all. I have been working for Mani Ratnam since Thiruda Thiruda for Anu Agarwal and in Iruvar for Aishwarya Rai as well as Mohanlal.

How was it working for Mani Ratnam?

We are on the same wavelength, before we start a film, I design a look.

Iruvar was a period film. What was different working for it?

The whole thing was new. I recreated the look of that period. Before we actually did the film, we tried on the look and took photos

What kind of looks have you given Jyothika?

In Dum Dum Dum, we gave her an ethnic look. In Kakha Kakha she had to look like a teacher, we gave more emphasis to her beautiful eyes. I liked doing the Ra Ra look in Chandramukhi; I followed what was done in the Kannada version.

How was it working with director Gautham?

I have known him for a very long time ever since he was working with Rajiv Menon, there is a comfort zone.

How was it working on Vaaranam Aayiram?

It had three looks for Suriya – father, son and the father when young. It was good and quite interesting. Gautham already had his father’s pictures and wanted something closest to that and it was easy. For the younger character of around 16, Suriya really reduced a lot of weight and we had his hair longer and a moustache with very little hair by putting in make-up in between. We did a lot of homework for this. For the old father, we did the old make-up and that worked well.

How did you feel about the award you received for Vaaranam Aayiram?

It’s a combined award for me and Yogesh. When I get one for myself I will tell you!

How was it working with Nayanthara?

She’s a very nice girl and I have worked with her for Sivaji and Aadhavan songs, the Pothys ad also for the Southscope shoot. I give her skin a shine because that looks better on her than a dry look. A dry look does not complement her texture.

How was it working with Trisha?

Trisha is a very charming girl. She’s done ads and is very easy to work with. I liked doing her look for Bheema. It was very interesting as I worked to give her a totally different look. I had given a lot of eye makeup and the skin tone and hairstyle was changed. I gave her a bronze tone and curled her hair a little, otherwise its poker straight. She loved it.

How has make-up in cinema changed over the years?

It has changed a lot. Earlier it was heavy make-up, now its hardly any make-up. Foundation has become really very light because of the HD cameras. Our make-up technique itself has changed from what it was. Pancake is out.

Suriya is very experimental with his looks. What kind of work have you done for him?

I have worked a lot with him, he loves to experiment. We designed the look even before we started the film and then got it done in Bounce. For Suriya, I have done Ayan, the songs of Aadhavan and now on 7am Arivu.

How about Vikram?

He is very nice and likes to experiment a lot and I enjoyed giving him the three looks for Anniyan. Then the female look in Kandaswamy, the old man. Ambi was the typical kudumi Brahmin look, the Remo-look, a hip character and the third is the Anniyan look with curly hair and the whole side face painted. For Remo, we gave lots of color for the hair. The director had lots of ideas too.

How did Rajinikanth react to your work?

Rajini said it was very nice. We tried many looks and he was ready for it.

Rajini said it was very nice

When I did the peel-off, Shankar

sir said yes I have got my Robot

How was it working on Endhiran? How did you create the Robot look?

We did a lot of homework for the film. I think Endhiran turned out spectacular. First we decided on the Chitti (Robot) look. My briefing was that he should look like the GI Joe toys - rubber and should not look human at all at any point of time. Yet, it had to look like Rajinikanth and no-one else. We considered prosthetic makeup but Rajini sir refused to sit for 4-5 hours of make-up, he said he had no patience for that.

So I planned how it should be done. He had to look younger and like a robot. I came up with a peel-off mask. It helped that I am a beautician too.

I tried the peel-off mask on all my family members first; everyone got a dose of my makeup. It worked and I clicked pictures of how it looked. Then we had a photo shoot, I gave different looks like a dry look. The director was not happy and asked for more. When I did the peel-off, Shankar sir said yes I have got my Robot.

How did you create the scientist look?

For the scientist look, we made Rajini Sir grow his beard and then started shaping it. It was neither a French beard not a full beard it was an Oakley beard

What about creating the evil Robot look?

The evil one was really fantastic. I knew what exactly I wanted , I wanted a red tone for the negative Chitti and got spiked hair, stiff hair with no movement and a white patch. Chitti’s hair would move and had a texture like human hair. The color tone was red as it flashes in the mind.

How was it working with director Shankar?

He’s very clear about what he wants. He was very happy with the looks I created. Once he is happy with a look, he says this is what I want.

How was it working with Murugadoss?

I have only done the songs in Ghajini for him. My only interaction with him is 7aam Arivu.

How was it different from working with other directors?

Each director is an individual and you can’t compare one person to another. I have worked with many and as you work with them, you get to know what they want and it gets more comfortable for both.

What are your memorable works?

For Jyothika I liked doing Pachaikili Muthucharam, I gave her a slightly vampish look with long eyeliner. For Trisha, my favorite is the Bheema look and for Asin I liked Ghajini especially Suttum Vizhi Chudarey. For Suriya, I like Vaaranam Aayiram and Ayan. I created a variety of looks. I liked doing the female getup for Suriya and Vikram. Imagine making them look like females, I enjoyed it! They were happy.

For Jyothika I liked doing

Pachaikili Muthucharam, I gave

her a slightly vampish look

I designed the gypsy look for

Tamannah with lots of color

Have you worked for Tamannah?

I have done Tamannah’s look for Ayan. I designed the gypsy look for Tamannah with lots of color.

What are your current projects?

7aam Arivu and 180.

What are your dreams?

I have no plans; no-one knows what tomorrow holds. If I have work, I am happy

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