Bollywood tattoo artist Vikas Malani on how COVID-19 affected the tattoo industry

Mumbai-based tattoo artist Vikas Malani, who has worked extensively in Bollywood, was in Chennai for a three-day workshop

December 21, 2020 05:09 pm | Updated December 22, 2020 12:51 pm IST

Vikas Malani

Vikas Malani

On a late afternoon in Chennai, Vikas Malani is neck deep in “bucket biryani” as he attends the call. The Mumbai-based tattoo artist, popular for his work in Bollywood (Aamir Khan for Dhoom 3 , Anushka Sharma for Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola , Priyanka Chopra for Pyaar Impossible among others), sounds exhausted after a long day of tattooing workshops with 25 aspiring artists from across South India. The three-day workshop that culminated on Sunday, Vikas says, was an attempt to bust myths and spread awareness on tattoo art in South India.

“I have observed that the Chennai industry is still new... still learning when it comes to the technology or opportunities available. Everyone seems to be following the Internet gods, and if they don’t follow the right practice, the quality will drop,” says Vikas about his decision to conduct the workshop. Even simple things like choosing the right quality of ink for a specific skin colour is often missed. “I also find that people are very passionate about art here. I find this to be very cool but the only catch is that artists don’t have the right facilities.”

A tattoo by BodyCanvas studio

A tattoo by BodyCanvas studio

For this reason, he had brought along trainers and equipment. The mental blockages that people have when it comes to tattooing is what he was trying to break through the workshops. “It’s like food. If you want me to make good food for you, the ingredients have to be fresh and of top quality,” he says. Hygiene and quality of the products aside, the workshop also coached participants on how to perfect their design skills, and understand muscle memory, especially on “how to feel and understand the skin; and make shading, lines and textures perfect”.

Vikas, who entered the field in 1998, has had a “rollercoaster ride” of a journey in the industry. His BodyCanvas tattoo parlour and piercing studio, which was founded 16 years back in Andheri, now has branches in London, the USA and Germany. Responding to how COVID-19 has affected the industry, Vikas admits that his clientèle has definitely shrunken, but with the right kind of assurance and safety measures, tattoo artists in India have been thriving.

“Tattooing is ultimately a luxury. At this moment, people don’t want to spend money on this.” That aside, Vikas says that even before the pandemic struck, tattoo artists across the globe have been using masks and gloves, since they inevitably come in close contact with clients. Also, as a standard procedure, needles are changed after every use. So, on the brighter side, there is not much of a health or hygiene concern specific to the pandemic, he concludes.

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