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Making Rajnikanth look stylish

Last updated on: October 11, 2010 15:15 IST

Making Rajnikanth look stylish

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Pavithra Srinivasan in Chennai

Endhiran/ Robot, Indian cinema's most expensive product to date, is running to full houses across the country, and fans are going berserk at how stylish Rajnikanth looks in all three incarnations in the movie. And Banu can give herself a pat on the back. After all, it's she who came up with the looks.

Banu takes Pavithra Srinivasan through the journey of her life, from the time she started her profession till her work in the biggest blockbuster of the year so far.


Image: Rajnikanth in Endhiran/ Robot. Inset: Banu

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'Jyothika was one of the first actresses I worked'

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How did you come to be a make-up artist?

I hadn't planned on being one at all. I'm basically a Commerce graduate from JBAS College, Chennai. There was no one connected with the film in my family -- no one who inspired me to take it up, or follow in their footsteps. I just got attracted to it.

I did a course in Chennai, and then went to the US for another course. I came back in 1989-1990, I started out by designing looks in ads. I worked with filmmakers like Rajiv Menon, and learnt a lot about the work itself.

Jyothika was one of the first actresses I worked with in the Idhayam oil ad. I also worked on her look in the Tamil movie, Dum Dum Dum. From then on, work arrived on a regular basis. I worked in movies like Anniyan and Ghajini. But my work was mostly doing the looks for songs, not the whole film.

Sivaji: The Boss was the first time in which I did the film.

How closely does your work overlap with other technicians?

Pretty much all the time. As a make-up artist, I need to know what kind of looks work, how the director has visualised the situation, and so on. Since I started out by working on songs, I had to work closely with the choreographer, and then the cinematographer who decides the camera angles and lighting. The costume-designer is a part of the process too. They all play an integral part in make-up.


Image: Rajnikanth and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Endhiran/ Robot

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'Shankar sir is a hard taskmaster'

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How did Endhiran happen?

Very easily, actually. Director Shankar decided on the project and called me straightaway, saying that he was starting a science-fiction film with Rajni sir, so would I start work on it. It wasn't any different from the other Shankar movies I had worked with.

It wasn't any different working with Rajni sir too because I had already worked with him in Sivaji.

Shankar sir is a hard taskmaster. He decides every detail, knows exactly what he wants and makes us all work on it. It was a joy working with them on something like this. For the public, the film may have opened very recently but for me, Endhiran is a three year long, dedicated project.


Image: Rajnikanth in Endhiran/ Robot

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'I used yak's hair to get that white streak in his hair'

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Endhiran has Rajnikanth sporting three very different looks. How did you come up with them?

We had to work with three very different looks to distinguish each character from the other. But at the same time, it had to be something that could be done quickly, with minimum fuss. Rajni sir told me right at the beginning that he wasn't Kamal Haasan; he couldn't sit for hours in a chair doing make-up endlessly. So we worked with that in mind.

For Chitti, the first version, I decided to go with something cool and youthful. I went with a peel-off mask that was easy to put on and remove. The whole process wouldn't take more than, say half an hour. The tousled hair and sleek shades added to the look.

For Chitti version two, we went with something a lot more hardened. I used yak's hair to get that white streak in his hair. (Art director) Sabu Cyril sir came up with the lightning like sideburns.

Dr Vaseegaran had to be an intellectual man, a brilliant scientist; someone older. I didn't want to go with a French beard -- that's been done so much. So I used the barest essentials of the beard. If you notice it, we vary it during the scenes: when he's working for days in the lab, his beard is bushier. But when he's cleaned up to go home, he's much more spruce. I did that to emphasize his jaw-line. I was worried the most about Dr Vasi's look because this is something he hasn't done before.

I had to work with the people in Hollywood to get the looks right. I even demonstrated the entire look at the Stan Winston studios because they wanted to see how it was done. We thought we might have to use the expertise of someone in Hollywood but the team liked the work I had done. Stan Winston Studios liked it as well. So they finalised it.

But Rajni sir made them all his own. I may have given the look but the way he played the characters, especially the robotic performance, those were all him.


Image: Rajnikanth in Endhiran/ Robot

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'Minimal make-up is the best tip I can offer'

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Isn't it true that female make-up artists have a very tough time in the film industry? They are even seen as unlucky for a project.

There's some truth to this. This is a field largely dominated by men and sometimes, problems arise. I made it this far because of my family's support -- we're pretty big: eight girls and two boys -- and also because of the support extended by the National Women's Council and State Women's Council. There's no easy way out in life. You have to be assertive. Know what you want in life and do your best to get it.

What are your future projects?

I'm working on 180 and Ezhaam Arivu at the moment. I just finished working on the Pothy's sari ad with Nayanthara.

Any make-up tips?

Happiness and minimal make-up is the best tip I can offer. Nothing brightens up the face more than a smile.


Image: Rajnikanth and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Endhiran/ Robot

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