The evolution of makeup and prosthetics in Bollywood

Initially, Bollywood was only focusing on makeup. Prosthetics came in much later and then a combination of makeup, hair and prosthetics became the in-thing for enhancing certain characters on screen. This led to an evocative revolution in the field of transformational get-ups.

We all know about Kamal Haasan’s transformation in Chachi 420 (1997) where desperation to be with his only child, forces a divorced man to take the guise of the child’s nanny.

Earlier, in Mera Naam Joker (1970), the legendary Raj Kapoor transformed himself into a circus clown. There were the tacky Ramsey scare-fare movies in the 70s, 80s and 90s. The double role of Amitabh Bachchan in Satte Pe Satta (1980). And Zeenat Aman in Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), with her scarred and burnt look in it.

Though not many remember this one; but Sanjeev Kumar played an interesting two-faced-character in Chehre Pe Chehra (1981), essaying the role of a scientist who experiments with his angelic and devilish side with the help of genetic engineering. Even his film Naya Din Nai Raat (1974) had him play nine different roles.

Almost all the films of Rajinikanth have had makeup and prosthetics, though along with a heavy dose of VFX and special effects.

A lot of films starring Gulshan Grover too have had interesting get-ups, as he has been an actor who loves to play with his looks. In fact, apart from being labeled ‘Bad Man’ in Bollywood, he has been called Gulshan ‘get-up’ Grover. Apparently, he even has a proud collection photo gallery of over 51 on-screen bizarre get-ups, including the grisly Chhappan Tikli character look in Sir (1993), where he had 56 pock-marks on his face.

Since Gulshan is considered short-statured by film-industry’s tall standards (referring to the height here) and not so well-built or macho, the ‘Bad Man’ literally ‘makes-up’ for his minus points with his ‘grotesque get-ups’.

While on Bollywood villains, Kulbhushan Kharbanda’s menacing look as Shakaal in Shaan (1980) is epic. He played a sadistic international crime lord, operating from a remote island outside India. Shakaal’s bald look was actually a rip-off from another iconic villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld from some of the early James Bond movies.

Of course, Amrish Puri’s diabolic baddie look as Mogambo in Mr.India (1987) goes down in history as one of the most iconic Bollywood villains since Sholay’s Gabbar Singh. But not to forget the fantastic sequence from Mr.India, where Sridevi emulates comedian Charlie Chaplin. That look is something her fans cherish.

Amitabh Bachchan in the role of the father in Aakhree Raasta (1986) is remembered, and so are Anil Kapoor’s old-man avatars in Eeshwar (1989) and Benaam Badsha (1991).

While on Anil Kapoor, his look in Lamhe (1991) is unforgettable, where he plays an aging caretaker of the daughter of the girl he once loved, and then falls for her in the latter half of the movie.

And who can forget Rekha in the cult-classic Khoon Bhari Maang (1988), where she transforms from a plain awkward girl with her face mauled by crocodiles, to a high-fashion diva. Both the looks were executed brilliantly.

Hrithik Roshan excellently played a character with developmental disability in Koi… Mil Gaya (2003), who’s son (also played by Hrithik) transforms into the superhero Krrish (2006). Even the body suit of the extraterrestrial Jadoo in Koi… Mil Gaya was the talk of the town. Of course, Jadoo was a take-off from the Hollywood film ET, but not once did we feel its impact was anything less.

While on Hrithik, who can forget his role of a conman who is a master of disguises in Dhoom 2 (2006). For this, he donned several disguises including that of an old man and even played the Queen of England. And what an excellent job he did of them.

Priyanka Chopra too played a 65-year-old woman in 7 Khoon Maaf (2011), while Kamal Haasan excelled in his old-man look in Indian (1996).

Akshay Kumar nailed the long-haired look in Action Replayy (2010), while Aamir Khan’s transformational looks in many milestone movies like Ghajini (2008) and PK (2014) are something to be remembered.

A few years ago, we also witnessed makeovers of Amitabh Bachchan in Paa (2009), Akshay Kumar in Shankar’s 2.0 (2018), Priyanka Chopra in Mary Kom (2014), Ranbir Kapoor in Sanju (2018), Vidya Balan in Bobby Jasoos (2014), Vivek Oberoi in Krrish 3 (2013), Rishi Kapoor in Kapoor And Sons (2016), Deepika Padukone in Chhapaak (2020), Shah Rukh Khan in Fan (2016), Ranveer Singh in Padmaavat (2018), Shahid Kapoor in Haider (2014), Sushant Singh Rajput in Chhichhore (2019), John Abraham in Romeo Akbar Walter (RAW) (2019), Akshay Kumar in Housefull 4 (2019) and Ayushmann Khurrana in Bala (2019).

One of the most surprising transformations was of Nawazuddin Siddiqui when he got into the character of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray for the biopic Thackeray (2019). What a transformation with amazing look-similarity.

In fact, surprisingly the latter seven startling looks from Padmaavat, Haider, Chhichhore, Romeo Akbar Walter (RAW), Housefull 4, Thackeray and Bala mentioned above, have all been done by just one makeup, hair and prosthetic specialist Preetisheel Singh D’souza.

In recent times, this innovative look designer in Bollywood has led the brigade with her phenomenal work also in movies such as Bajirao Mastani (2015), 102 Not Out (2018), Mulk (2018), Pati Patni Aur Woh (2019) and Southern superhits like 24 (2016), Bigil (2019) and Master (2021).

Earlier, Preetisheel won the National Award for her work in her very first film; the historical epic Nanak Shah Fakir (2015). After she designed transformational looks for money-spinning blockbusters like Bajirao Mastani, Padmaavat, Chhichore and Housefull 4 she emerged the No.1 specialist to go to in her field.

Her work of creating believable ghost-figures for the horror film The House Next Door (2017) has also been praised a lot. The film, which released in three languages — as The House Next Door in Hindi, Aval in Tamil and Gruham in Telugu — garnered critical acclaim and earned a lot of positive reviews for her work.

The makeover wiz has gone a step ahead and set up India’s first makeup and prosthetic lab called Da Makeup Lab in Mumbai, which has emerged as a landmark in the elite Versova locality of the city. Her goal is to bring standards of make-up and prosthetics in India at par with Hollywood.

She has recently been featured by international media among the top 5 makeup and prosthetic designers in the world, along with Hollywood stalwarts such as Kazu Hiro, Christian Tinsley, Jordu Schell and Neill Gorton. What’s more! She is the only woman featured in this top 5 list of world famous makeup and prosthetic designers.

Her work in upcoming movies like Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi and Yash Raj Films’ Bunty Aur Babli 2 and Southern movies such as Allu Arjun-starrer Pushpa and Vikram-starrer Cobra is awaited.

Recently, Preetisheel even curated an old-man look for Ranbir Kapoor, a grandfather look for Nagarjuna for the promo of Telugu Bigg Boss, mother and daughter double role looks for Madhuri Dixit, and triple role grandfather-son-grandson looks for Akshay Kumar for advertisements, which were much raved about.

In fact, in her interviews this makeup and prosthetic specialist has often mentioned that it was Kamal Haasan’s get-up in Chachi 420 which inspired her to enter this profession. Bollywood too has seen a great journey in makeup, hair and prosthetics since those times. The glory of this mind-boggling art is sure to leave an interesting legacy.