Make-up artiste and hair stylist Ambika Pillai talks about her tryst with Malayalam television and the warm reception she has got from the audience

Ambika Pillai really can’t believe that she has got such a huge fan following in her home state, Kerala. “I never thought I’d be loved with this crazy Malayalam of mine,” says the Delhi-based vivacious beauty and hair expert, breaking into a hearty laugh. In fact, she never even dreamt that she would once be part of a reality show on Malayalam television, having lived away from the State for a long time.

But, just over two months into the show, ‘Midukki’ on Mazhavil Manorama, and she has become the darling of viewers. “Oh…I’m not used to this madness. People just swarm me wherever I go and some even call me by funny names names such as ‘thakkudumani’, ‘kukkudumani’. They are not worried about the Malayalam I speak. It is awesome… I’m just loving it. But I would like to say that I’m not a star, but a normal human being and a very hardworking person,” says Ambika, who now runs seven salons in the Capital and is a much-sought after make-up and hair expert.

A never-say-die woman who made it to the top against all odds on the personal and professional front, Ambika admits she wouldn’t have agreed to do the show but for her mother, Santha Gopinath. “When the channel approached me with the offer, I immediately declined because I can’t speak good Malayalam! But they said that was perfectly fine. They even said ‘you are the prodigal daughter of Kerala and nobody knows about you and what you do’. Then I called up amma who stays in Kollam and asked her opinion. She instantly said yes. Thus I agreed to do it on the condition that she would come to meet me in Kochi whenever I come down for the shoot,” she says.

The show, a talent hunt for the ‘smartest woman’, has been a great experience, says Ambika, whose clientele includes the who’s who of the tinsel town and the fashion industry. Nevertheless she was in for a shock when she started working with contestants of the show. “I couldn’t believe that most of them don’t do make-up or styling. For many young women, make-over stops at hair straightening! I’m happy to have exposed many girls to something new. I am totally against fairness creams and chemical treatments. Maybe, that’s why people like what I do,” she says.

She hopes Malayalis change their mindset on beauty and hair. “I’m not talking about a drastic change. But it is high time we open our minds. It is quite a lot of fun. Here, everybody is concerned about their tresses. That is mainly because of the men in the families who prefer the women in their lives to have long hair! Well, I’m not a hair dresser who likes to cut hair. I’m just talking about looking good,” says Ambika.

So, coming to the important question, when is she opening her salon in Kerala? “I’m asked this question every day! I’ve plans to work here. And there would be salons in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Kozhikode and Kottayam.” Phew!

Before signing off, the endearing Ambika shares with us: “I feel the roots are pulling me back…!”