In a class of their own

Avinash S. Chetia   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“They call us the three flowers of Kerala,” says make-up artiste Renju Renjimar, referring to herself and fellow make-up artistes Jaanmoni Das and Avinash Shankar Chetia. The trio are not your garden variety make-up artistes, though, and that’s not least because they’ve each made the choice to identify themselves as women.

Renju, a native of Kollam, and Jaanmoni and Avinash, both from Assam, have been changing the face of the make-up scene in the state with their deft hands and eye for style. In just a few years, these trendsetting transgenders, who each work independently, have risen to the top of the profession. They have become the favourites of celebrities, not to mention brides from all over Kerala and beyond. They are also the go-to make-up artistes for films, ad and fashion shoots.

In fact, it’s celeb endorsement that’s really helped them go places, say the trio. Amala Paul, for instance. Jaanmoni’s known Amala since well before the svelte actress made her debut in tinsel town and Avinash credits both Amala and Jaanmoni for helping her make her entry into Mollywood. “I’d been working as a make-up artiste in Assamese and Bengali cinema, when they both invited me to Kerala in 2011,” says Avinash, a diploma holder in make-up from Delhi University. She debuted in Mollywood by glossing up Amala for Run Baby Run and came into the spotlight when she did actor Nazriya Nazim’s bridal make-up.

“Malayalam and the rest of South Indian cinema has since welcomed me with open arms,” adds Avinash. Meanwhile, the likes of actor Priyamani, singer Rimi Tomy, and more recently Aarathi Pillai, businessman Ravi Pillai’s daughter, have done the same for Renju.

“Amala, Rajini Haridas, Manju Warrier, Poornima Indrajith, Swetha Menon, Geetu Mohandas, Rimi…they are real humans; true friends, who understand, laugh and cry with us. They each have been supporting us through thick and thin, often going out of their way to give us opportunities to showcase our talent,” says Jaanmoni.

Avinash has been winning applause for sculpting Manju’s looks for her comeback movie, How Old Are You (HOAY), for Amala’s fresh-from-abroad looks in Oru Indian Pranayakatha and the likes. “When I do the make-up for a film, I’m always conscious about the character as has been envisioned by the actor and the director. For example, for HOAY, director Rosshan Andrewss wanted something very Malayali girl-next-door for Manju, one that made her look slightly older than her years. So, we stuck to simple highlights on the face, thin khol and a very traditional hairstyle – long, oiled hair, with a parting in the middle,” says Avinash, who has worked on some 50 films.

She is presently handling Asha Sharreth’s make-up in King Liar. “Asha plays a high-flying fashion designer in the film – a look that’s vastly different from the motherly roles she’s done so far. It was a very challenging makeover,” she adds.

Renju’s career too is on an upswing ever since Aarathi’s wedding and her speciality is eye make-up.

“For long, eye-make-up in films, for brides and fashion shoots, was restricted to applying khol. The eyes are the highlights of the face and eye make-up, if done properly, can enhance your face like nothing else, especially if you are going under the arclights. When I do a makeover, once we identify a foundation that matches the skin tone, it only takes five minutes or so for me to do up the face. I spend as much time as possible on the eyes. One has to be careful with eye make-up, because if the shading on one is even slightly different from the other, it’ll be obvious,” explains Renju.

The trio, who say they are each other’s best friends (“we keep buying each other make-up and sharing make-up tips”), insist that there’s nothing special about them. “We don’t think we are special. It’s society that sees us as different. We’re normal human beings. Actresses and directors call us for work not because we are transgenders but because this particular human being is good at her work,” says Avinash.

“We are successful because we are like any other successful professional – dedicated, hardworking and truthful; we have a positive outlook and refuse to let our personal choices and its resultant pain intrude into our professional lives,” adds Jaanmoni.

Haute looks

Along with Amala, Jaanmoni is credited with bringing ‘chilli red’ lipstick into vogue in Mollywood and smoky eye-makeup too. “For some reason, red lipstick was a big no in Malayalam cinema, where make-up was once all about subtle shades, highlighting so-called natural looks. Amala and I enjoy wearing make-up in bright colours and we wanted to show that they can look good on screen too,” explains Jaanmoni.

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Printable version | Nov 16, 2020 11:21:03 AM |

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