N. G. Roshan's experience as a sculptor and theatre person has made him different from the usual make-up artists

When Kamal Hassan made ‘Dasavatharam', he had special prosthetic make-up veteran Michael Westmore flown in from Hollywood for the make-up department. Westmore is the man behind all those Star Trek characters you saw.

For Kamal's current production, ‘Viswaroopam', which also needs such make-up, he has not got any foreign make-up man. Instead, N.G. Roshan, a Kozhikodan guy (Balussery, to be precise) is doing it, much to the pride of Malayalis everywhere. With neither make-up nor ‘tinseltown' clichés, Roshan is a straight-talking chap who is in Kochi to do some work in a movie.

It's not as if he does only make-up. Roshan is a theatre person who studied in School of Drama, (acting and direction) Thrissur, and moved on to National School of Drama, specialising in property design too. Somewhere between directing and dabbling in lighting, which he loves, he got interested in make-up.

Beyond the usual

It's not make-up as you and I know it, by the way. Make-up as an art in cinema goes much beyond that. It's not just the ‘Mrs. Doubtfire' or the ‘Avvai Shanmukhi' kind.

“You can change the look of a character with a small change in the way the ears or nose are done up.” Ear or nose? Yes, that is prosthetic make-up, which Roshan learnt at the Grease Paint School in London.

“I went with a Charles Wallace India Trust scholarship. The course then (year 2000) cost Rs. 17 lakh.” That he loved to paint and sculpt came in really handy for such a course. For you sculpt a nose, or something that is an appendage on the face or wherever the director wants to have, on a character.

“Most importantly, the skin, when a character ages, the difference is great,” explains Roshan. Ah…as in ‘Paa' and Amitabh Bachchan, you realise.

In the old days, there would be a white haired wig which the ‘mother' wore with clear skin sans blemish even when she reaches 80 years, in a movie. Only the croaking voice is expected to shout out her age. People always asked for more and make-up went over a sea-change.

Roshan speaks of ‘Pazhassi Raja', his first Malayalam project, in which he worked hard with his team, for the star cast was huge, what with the lead characters, soldiers, et al.

In Shyamaprasad's ‘Electra', he had challenging work too. The touchstone to see if make-up is good is to ask the question, “Does it look like make-up has been done?” If the answer is yes, then it's bad make-up; if it's no, then you pass the test.

The experience of making up Margi Sathi in ‘Evan Megharoopan,' ready for release, is something Roshan cherishes. He is also busy making Dileep look like a heroine for ‘Maya Mohini' now.

Offbeat start

He started out with offbeat movies like Murali Nair's (of ‘Marana Simhasanam' fame) ‘Virgin Goat', which won several accolades at film festivals all over the world. The lead character, Raghubir Yadav, had complex make-up by Roshan.

“The 3D make-up totally transforms people. It is difficult and the materials come from abroad, for you don't have companies making that sort of raw materials here. It must not show up in whatever lighting the character is exposed to,” Roshan explains.

His theatre experience and the fact that he is also a sculptor were great advantages.

Roshan's wife Mini is a post-graduate in Theatre Art Design and Direction from the National School of Drama. She, like Roshan, is also multifaceted and paints. They put up plays together. When he directs, she acts and vice versa, Roshan says, laughing. It's not as if he has moved over from theatre to cinema. “I do both simultaneously and also hold workshops on theatre, make-up and allied subjects, institutions like NSD,” Roshan says, though one wonders what he will do when the dates of his call sheet all go out to cinema.