Get inked!

Get inked!

Get inked!

When Mickey Malani got into the business of tattooing more than a decade ago, it wasn't exactly for the love of body art. Making an honest confession from his studio in Mumbai, he tells us that he was quite taken in by the way it impressed girls. "It was a matter of chance more than choice. I dropped out of school and therefore hung out with my brother's friends who were in college then. When I saw him surrounded by girls getting temporary tattoos done, I said to myself, "That's what I want to do!"

The career may have started off on a lighter note for Mickey, but he is today one of the leading names in the world of body art in India, shuttling between Mumbai and his new private studio in London, which happens to be the latest Body Canvas outlet of the Malani brothers, who currently own four in India.

Tryst with tattoos

Mickey has tattooed celebrities including Priyanka Chopra, Aamir Khan and MS Dhoni to name a few, but he isn't a big fan of celebrity tattooing. What gets him going are the real people with real stories. He adds, "I do the same job every day but with a different person, so I'm learning about life everyday. One of my oldest clients is 84 years old. He came to me saying he's done everything there was to in life, and wanted to check this off the list as well. This only goes to show that it's never too late to do what you want. We've worked on people from all walks of life - musicians, cops or homemakers. Often they reveal intimate details about their lives because the design of the tattoo is a personal self-expression. How many professions give you the privilege of getting to know someone so closely?"

Having been a part of the tattoo space for more than 15 years, Mickey says it has evolved in many ways. For one, the numbers have increased incredibly. There was a time when he had 10 clients a month, but now the studio caters to around 600 every month. But that doesn't mean that everybody who comes to get a tattoo, gets one. "I turn people down all the time! If you're not 18, that's a straight no. I'm careful about drawing religious symbols or inscribing words in a foreign language that I don't know the meaning of. I never quote from the Quran and most importantly, I don't encourage tattooing the name of a person's romantic partner - especially if they've been in a relationship for a short time."

Mickey learnt a little lesson in how tattooing could be controversial when he got some flak for a tattoo that he posted on social media a few years ago. It was the word 'Bharat' written across a tourist's foot. "This gentleman was really moved by his India experience, and wanted the tattoo to convey that he'll remember it every step of the way. But people took it so negatively," he rues. It's not the same in England though, he admits. "It's a lot more chilled out there."

Fresh perspective

Incidentally, it was at a tattoo convention in London that his perspective on the subject took a leap. "I realised that tattooing is far more than etching names, symbols, gods etc on bodies. It's about getting beautiful art work done. And it's okay to not have a story behind it. If you have it, that's a plus. At the end of the day, the body is a canvas and let the artist explore."

Quite naturally then, Mickey isn't a big fan of trends. Which is why, there's a peculiar sign that would greet you outside his studio a while ago. It had a picture of a dream catcher, the infinity sign and a popular picture of birds flying out of a feather (popular tattoo designs) - all with a caption that read, 'out of stock'. "C'mon, think of something else!" he exasperates.

There is however, no running away from trends if you're in the business. Letting us in on the trends of the season, Mickey continues, "A lot of people go in for minimalistic tattoos these days - tattoos with just outlines, without any colour inside. Then there's the travel-themed tattoos where you get a plane, globe or a travel message tattooed. Also, character tattoos. Characters from animation films or just other feature films. Fans go all out with character tattoos. Water colour tattoos were really huge a while ago, but they're sort of fading out now."

But a trend that he does endorse is the blackout tattoo - a blacked-out patch on the body. "I love it! People think it's easy, but it isn't. It's easier to get away with shading that's not done right. But while filling in a blackout tattoo, you have to get the colouring right - it has to be even and cover every little patch. It is however, only for people with a strong personality, because it's bold. If you ask me, it'll take a while before it hits India in a big way."

We ask Mickey his one piece of advice for those sceptical of going under the needle. "Well, if you're sceptical, don't do it - until you feel it's time. Or talk to the tattoo artiste. I encourage people to tell me what they do, dream, desire and come up with a design that embodies their personality. Like I always say, "You give us a story, we'll give it character."


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