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'It's my job to make actors picture perfect'

Last updated on: August 12, 2010 15:24 IST

Nithya Ramani

Makeup artist Namrata Soni began her Bollywood career assisting Dilshad in the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Main Hoon Na. She then branched out on her own and has bagged films like Kabh Alvida Na Kehna, Om Shanti Om and I Hate Luv Stories. Her latest project was doing hair and makeup for Sonam Kapoor-starrer Aisha.

Here Namrata speaks to Nithya Ramani about what it takes to make it in the Indian film and fashion industry.

Tell us about what it is like to be a makeup artist.

It is a very tough field to be in and it is very demanding. To make it in this line you should have a lot of patience.

Advance studies to keep abreast of fashion trends can never harm you. The western [makeup] industry is very advanced and to keep pace with them you should go there and learn their trends. It is very important to keep updating yourself. There are lots of young people who want to be part of this line, so you should have something extra, something that sets you apart from the others. This comes from your character, upbringing and attitude.

Video: Look like Sonam with the right makeup!

Being part of a movie teaches you to be patient. In fashion, it is all very fast since you are working on many models at the same time. You can afford to cheat sometimes but not in movies. You have to make your actor look flawless on the big screen. You have to be patient and determined to maintain the same look with the star over a period of time.

Makeup can only hide small marks or scars but cannot hide big eye bags that come because of an actor's lifestyle.
It is your job to make sure that the actor goes on screen picture-perfect and it is the actor's job to make sure that they follow a healthy lifestyle.

'Ego is not going to work in your favour at all'

Image: Namrata Soni with Sonam Kapoor

Is there good money in it?

It is not as easy as it looks. I did some free work initially just to get my work out there. I wanted people to know my work and me, so I didn't mind doing it free of cost. I was lucky that I didn't need to work for the money because of my family background. But once you are recognised and you have set your makeup and look for people to see, then there is no dearth of work or money.

It is a great line to work in as far as money is concerned. At the same time it is a very insecure line to work in. My advice is to maintain a balance by doing movies, fashion and ads so you don't depend on just one field for your money. Even if you get into in the bad books on one actor you can shift and work with someone else. Or you can take a break from movies and work on ads so that there is a steady flow of money coming in.

The best form of media is the magazines and it is the best place for artists to get their work recognised. When you go on photo shoots you get to meet new actors every time. Actors are always on the lookout for new makeup artists and that is where they experiment with their looks. But when it comes to films they like to play it safe and work with those they know well.

Secondly it is never late to assist a bigger artist. You have nothing to lose assisting someone bigger and better than you. You will learn a lot. Ego is not going to work in your favour at all. You have to be egoless, honest and learn to keep you mouth shut when you need to. Do not gossip and tell tales of one unit to another. Do not share what you have learnt from one camp or makeup artist or actress to another. It is not your business to talk about their lives to others. Focus on your work and do what you need to do.

What are the skill sets required?

You have to be creative, open-minded and ready to try new things. You can't be rigid and say that you will do something in a particular way because that is all you know.

The most important thing in makeup is learning to good foundation. Doing eye makeup and lip colour will come naturally to you if you look at faces and read their types. But doing good foundation and getting your basics right is important.

For a hairstylist, learn to get your blow dry right. If you can do that right, you can do anything. Practice till your arms ache but that is the most important thing.

Also see: Namrata shares some great hairstyling tips!

'You must assist someone for at least two years'

Image: Sameera Reddy in Musafir

Have you faced any problems with models while shooting?

So many! When you are working with models, you have shoot outdoor in foreign locations and you get stuck with the weather. You have a particular look but the weather is so humid that it dries the skin. You don't know what to do. At times like these you need to think out of the box and think of an alternative.

That is why it is very important for you to assist someone for at least two years to understand what are the possible difficulties you can face and how you could solve them. There was a time when I was out shooting and the artist came with a bad skin break-out. What's worse is that photographers don't believe in touching up during a shoot because they like it to be natural. They want the makeup artist to do their best before the shoot and then allow minimal touching up while shooting.

If an actor's skin is broken out what do you do? The makeup just won't stay on the skin or on the pimple. That is why you need to have good rapport with those you are working with so that you can tell them the problem you are facing and that you need help by probably asking him to shoot from a different angle so that broken skin isn't seen, or go heavy on the foundation, or change the lighting so that it doesn't look heavy on screen.

I faced a lot of this during the shoot of Musafir. Sameera [Reddy] had to look like this glamourous doll in a bikini coming out of the water and the climate wouldn't help. It was an amazing challenge for me in my first film. The director used to call me Picasso because I always had a brush in hand and keep touching up her face in between shots. In climax scenes, the makeup was just spreading and wouldn't stay on her face.

Does it affect your personal life?

Like nothing else does. It plays on your mind and makes you wonder what went wrong and how you could have rectified it. Then you do your research and find out about products that don't blot. I am constantly looking at new products that are in trend and use them to make the model look modern and fashionable.

'Criticism is part of the game'

Image: Still from Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna

How do you decide what will look good on a particular person?

We initially do a small look test to check what colours suit the person and if they have a red undertone or yellow undertone. It mostly comes with experience. You will know once you see the skin and know what to use and how. It is only in India that we have all skin tones right from porcelain to black.

What kind of criticism have you faced while working on your projects?

Lots during the release of Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Preity's look was very different from her other roles and I got a 50-50 response. Some said they loved it and some didn't like it at all.

I used to get upset with it earlier but my mom made me understand that it is part of the game and I should learn to deal with it.

I'm not used to criticism but I learn from it. You have to read the latest magazines and know what is out there and what can be done to make your model look perfect without doing the same thing everytime.

Who is your favourite makeup artist? And your favourite brands?

I love Kevin Acoin but he is no more. He was one of my gurus in makeup. I till date follow his book. I don't have one favourite brand. I love Naaz, Chimera, Bobby Brown, Mac, Chanel.

'Less is more should be the mantra, always'

Image: Sonam Kapoor in Aisha
What kind of look will look good on Indian skin?

I believe that we [Indians] have very beautiful skin texture. We should not be scared to try colours. Green eyeliner or dark blue really suits Indians because most of us have chocolate brown eyes. Instead of the usual black all the time, we could try these colours to enhance our eyes. Kohl is something that definitely suits our skin.

We should stop using rusts and browns too often. Heavy makeup is very outdated. Keep it young and fresh. If you are going out in the night, doing up your eye, use is chic colour like coral or bronze. Use only a lip balm for the night instead of lipstick. If you are using red lipstick then use only mascara and blush and keep it simple.

Learn how to accentuate one feature on your face rather than accentuating all features. Generally Indians have the habit of using thick eye liner and red lipstick. When you are going for a wedding, you are already wearing heavy jewellery and clothes, why add to it with red lipstick? Less is more should be the mantra, always.

Your favourite looks of Sonam in Aisha?

The polo match look, the salsa dance look, the climax scene where she is wearing a beautiful purple dress, the camp fire song where we have made her look like an angel with the little flower band on the head and the volleyball on beach scene where she is wearing simple jeans with swimsuit where her hair is fully tied behind with tiny braids.

Also see: Making these Aisha gals look hot!