Behind that mask

Last Updated 14 April 2018, 13:56 IST

What do films such as Padmaavat, Bajirao Mastani, Housefull 3, Mom, Talwar, The House Next Door, Haider as well as the pre-Mughal historical epic Nanak Shah Fakir have in common? The answer could well be the talented make-up and prosthetics designer Preetisheel Singh who studied to be an engineer, but ended up in a more "creatively challenging, satisfying and enriching world of make-up." What more, in her short stint in this stream, she has already pocketed the coveted National Film Award for best make-up for the soon-to-be-released epic Nanak Shah Fakir - a film on Guru Nanak. And she's raring to go further: her upcoming movies include the Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor-starrer 102 Not Out, Nawazuddin Siddiqui's Thackeray and another Rishi Kapoor film, Mulk.

A tte--tte with the new talent on what makes her tick...

From a career as a software engineer in the IT industry, you changed tracks to become a make-up and prosthetics designer. How did that happen?

Well, sometimes, you just know your heart is in the wrong place... and mine certainly was. And as this feeling started getting stronger, I called up my mom and told her I wasn't going to sit in front of a computer and waste my life away. You could say I was lucky that she understood and supported my heart's calling. She had the guts to go with my gut and off I went changing tracks!

Does your background as an engineer help you in your present vocation?

The only advantage I see is that I work more than 9-to-9- engineers, who I guess, are engineered to do that. So that helped. Other than that, I had to learn things here from scratch.

How would you define make-up? And how important is it to a film?

Make-up has a much broader perspective in comparison to just touching up the face. Add prosthetics to that and the whole look and feel of the character's face and physique can undergo a drastic change. What I do is design characters. I read the script and design a look for the actor to fit the character. When there's a time lapse in a project, the make-up design should justify the character and give justice to the script and that's where we get to see the power of make-up. It's one of the most important factors contributing to the continuity and consistency of the film too.

In the olden days, make-up was simple and realistic. And there was hardly any use of prosthetics...

With the changes coming in, things, I feel, have become more realistic now, more believable. Today's audiences want to see, hear, feel and touch reality. They want to feel they are there and participate in the situation being shown on the screen. Plus, with the internet, the world is shrinking... everyone is able to be in touch with reality, globally.

Were you worried about the controversy that the film 'Padmaavat' had been dragged into?

Well, it was heartbreaking to come across such a controversy, knowing how hard Sanjay sir had worked. And of course, the whole team's efforts for the project were in a limbo. But we all had faith in it and hoped for the best. And by the grace of God, it ended well.

With the appreciation your work has garnered, do you think the art of makeup is finally getting its due? Which project of yours set the ball rolling?

Yes, make-up is being taken a little more seriously, it's looked at as more than just pure gloss... it's getting substance now, but there's still a long way to go. Initially, Nanak Shah Fakir brought out the best in me in the most challenging circumstances. There was so much to do and my director Sartaj Singh Pannu entrusted me with a huge responsibility at the beginning of my career.

And you even bagged the National Award for your work in 'Nanak Shah Fakir'. What were the challenges there?

The film made me work the longest hours and took quite a lot of energy and patience. But ultimately, it all paid off. During the shooting of Nanak Shah Fakir, we created Da Makeup Lab, India's first prosthetic and make-up design studio. And from there, it just kept getting better... and I got blessed with a National Award.

Whose look among the recent films you've been associated with has been the most satisfying for you?

Well, after designing Nawazuddin Siddiqui's look for Mom, I'm again working on another very interesting look for him for the film Thackeray. It's been pretty satisfying and very challenging to transform his look as the Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.

Who among the actors is the most sporting about getting their look changed?

I would say it's Ranveer Singh for the electrifying energy he exudes, and this energy just spreads all over and boosts everyone working on the project as well. Needless to say, Ranveer is immensely supportive and it gives a creative person like me the right kick to push the envelope just a little bit more. Look at the way he got into the character of Alauddin Khalji in Padmaavat and brought it to life with his performance. Wasn't it just amazing?

(Published 14 April 2018, 06:26 IST)

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