Meet actor K. Bagyaraj’s make-up man

After three decades as a makeup artiste in the cinema industry, 62-year-old Nagendran is happy making wigs in Vadapalani

The tea shop on Duraisamy Road, Vadapalani, was K Nagendran’s best friend. It changed his life in many ways, even without him realising it. As a fledgling makeup artiste in the film industry, Nagendran, in his 20s, then, would walk to the shop every morning for his daily dose of coffee. “Actors would drive past on the main road; there was no tinted film covering the windows back then,” he says, seated at Suresh Wig Works, Pillayar Koil Street, Vadapalani, where he works.

Nagendran is sewing small lengths of hair into a mesh to create a wig as he speaks. “They were either headed to AVM Studios or Vauhini and I knew exactly who was going for a shoot,” says the 62-year-old. Nagendran would plan his day accordingly. If he saw Sivaji Ganesan, he would instantly follow him to the studio, a copy of the day’s The Hindu in hand. “I would read out the paper to him as he got ready for shoot,” he says. “On many days, I would also have breakfast with him.” It’s a friendship that Nagendran holds close to his heart.

Meet actor K. Bagyaraj’s make-up man

Nagendran is among the countless people who travelled to Chennai, with very little in their pocket, dreaming of making it big in cinema. “I wanted to become a makeup man,” he says. He assumed that the job required skill that could be easily acquired. Nagendran came with ₹100 in hand from his village Anducode, near Nagercoil.

He rented a house in Vadapalani and found a job as a makeup assistant at Prakash Studio near AVM. “Initially, I would just hover around the main makeup man on the set, helping him do touch-ups when necessary,” he recalls. “Every unit had one makeup artiste, an assistant, and a set assistant.” The assistants did touch-ups for all the actors in the unit.

Meet actor K. Bagyaraj’s make-up man

“For instance, if there was a fight scene, we would apply red paint to give the impression of blood,” he says. Nagendran was a makeup assistant for 10 years. “I also made wigs to support myself,” he says. “I must have made some 400 wigs during my career,” he adds, looking up to smile.

Nagendran says he used different makeup techniques for movies shot in black-and-white and those in colour. With experience, he became the make-up man for actor K Bhagyaraj and worked with him for 10 years. “I worked with him for films such as Rasukutty, Veetla Visheshanga,” he explains.

Today, after three decades in the industry, Nagendran lives away from all the action. “I apply makeup for school children for annual day functions,” he says. During the rest of the year, he is seated on a wooden bench at the store, sewing wigs. The film industry has moved outside the studios and Nagendran cannot keep up with its pace. “I’ve got grandchildren now and do not travel much for outdoor shoots,” he says. But he has no regrets. He’s known as the cinema kaaran in his home town, which makes him proud. “People recognise me whenever I visit,” he says, smiling behind his grey beard. Does he miss the fast-paced cinema life? “No,” he says. “I’ve done enough. I come to the wig shop in the morning, go home for lunch…It’s a good life.”

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 6:43:20 AM |

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