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Make-up pro Anu Kaushik on dolling up bolly beauties over the decades

Anu considers creating luminous and glowing skin her forte as a make-up artist

Saionee Chakraborty Published 04.10.18, 03:03 PM
Anu Kaushik at The India Story Wedding Diaries — the bridal and trousseau edit — at Swabhumi last month.

Anu Kaushik at The India Story Wedding Diaries — the bridal and trousseau edit — at Swabhumi last month. Picture: Rashbehari Das

There is something endearingly simple about Anu Kaushik. The Delhi-based beauty pro with almost three decades of experience in fashion and Bollywood is down to earth and full of warmth. In town for The India Story Wedding Diaries, in association with t2, Anu chatted with us on her journey and her fave Bolly faces to work on.

What’s your make-up mantra?


I am a minimalist. It shouldn’t look like you are wearing make-up. Make-up should enhance your best features. I am very particular about creating luminous and glowing skin. That has been my forte since the beginning.

It’s been one long journey for you...

Close to 30 years! (Laughs) I don’t feel it’s been 30 years though! I started when I was 16. During a summer vacation my mother said that I needed some grooming and enrolled me at a salon for some grooming classes. I was a teenager and I got so fascinated seeing the transformation. People walked out with a good haircut or a blow-dry or after good make-up with so much confidence.

I used to help them out at the salon, like this excited, little kid. Though my classes were for just two weeks, they said I could go back whenever I wanted to. So, after school I used to go there. I kept working in the after-college hours too and got quite confident.

This was what I wanted to do. I felt it was a powerful platform. You work so closely with people and you give them something that boosts their confidence. Everyone in my family was against it initially. It was not considered a ‘job’. The concept of a make-up artist wasn’t there, it was more of a beautician. They didn’t think it was a white-collar job, but now everyone is happy and proud.

After college, I got a good job at a five-star hotel as a hair and make-up artist and was drawing a high salary because I was the only educated person, a graduate, doing hair and make-up. It was unheard of.

Indrani Dasgupta is my make-up muse

Indrani Dasgupta is my make-up muse Agencies

What did make-up mean in those days?

Make-up wasn’t a big deal those days. Haircut and blow-dry were. Make-up meant only the bride gets her make-up done. As a bride, I did my own make-up. There were rollers in my hair and I was doing make-up for others. Then I realised that I too had to get ready! I opened my rollers, put the gajra and did my make-up.

Now, even if you are going clubbing, you need make-up. Smokey eyes! And they are ready to pay Rs 25,000-Rs 30,000. With the advent of fashion weeks, make-up started trending. You started getting respect as a make-up artist and hairstylist.

How did you foray into fashion make-up?

Dubai gave me exposure to Bollywood. A lot of Bollywood nights used to happen there. I was hired as a make-up artist. I did make-up for Sridevi, Pooja Bhatt, Juhi Chawla, in 1992-93.

I wanted to get into the fashion industry and a friend of mine suggested I do a portfolio. I got Indrani Dasgupta to shoot for me. And she has been my make-up muse since that day. I still remember I used an aqua blue line on her eyes and did smokey eyes in a different way… little blue-brown kind of pigmented smokey eyes. I styled the hair in a different way. I created out-of-the box looks. That was my first brush with fashion make-up.

Photographer Tarun Vishwa suggested that I go and meet Elite Model Management. They took a test shoot with me and they loved my work and they signed me on. I was with them for about four years. They gave me an introduction to the fashion world.

I did a calendar with Elite Model Management, the first time they were doing a calendar. That calendar became popular for nude make-up. This was 2007-08.

The fashion industry is the best industry to work as a make-up artist because that gives you complete freedom. If I am doing a bride’s make-up, she has her own mind and ideas. When I am doing a celebrity’s make-up, they are fixated about a look that works on them. The newcomers have started experimenting though, but for years you have seen the Bollywood hair and look. Fashion gives me a lot of creative satisfaction. We can collaborate and create a picture. This is what I enjoy the most.

Three essentials 
A pop colour for your lips and cheek 
A good haircut 
Actresses who know their make-up well 
Aishwarya Rai (Bachchan) is always picture-perfect. From the new generation, I think Deepika Padukone. She never fails.

Three essentials Kajal A pop colour for your lips and cheek A good haircut Actresses who know their make-up well Aishwarya Rai (Bachchan) is always picture-perfect. From the new generation, I think Deepika Padukone. She never fails. Agencies

You’ve had a long association with Rani Mukerji…

I was shooting in Goa with Prabuddha Dasgupta when I got a call asking me if I was free to do a shoot the next day in Bombay. They said it was for Rani Mukerji. I got excited. Sabyasachi (Mukherjee) was styling that shoot. The shoot was happening at Yash Raj (Films). For me, it was a dream moment. That was my big break.

She was very warm. I asked her how she knew about me. She said she was flipping through magazines and she saw some work of mine and loved it and took a note of my name. It was very touching.

So, I was working on her and she suddenly asked me: ‘Are you free on these dates?’ I said yes. She asked me to accompany her to the Toronto International Film Festival. That was another dream moment. I did her red-carpet look. Since then I have had a relationship with Rani.

I did Hichki with her. She gave me the full responsibility of hair and make-up. She has that trust factor. I also did Aiyyaa with her… she called me for the songs… the looks were elaborate.

She loves doing her eyes the most. The most important thing in her vanity bag is a kajal. Now, you hardly see any make-up on her. In Hichki, I did airbrush make-up on her.

Who are your other favourites?

Vidya Balan is very warm and respectful towards the technicians. I have not seen someone as humble as her. She trusts the professional completely. Kareena Kapoor Khan is such a pleasure to work with. She is very sure… she has that confidence. She doesn’t even look at the mirror when I am doing the make-up. I did her make-up for an event and she immediately booked me for the red carpet. It gives you a high as an artist.

She has flawless hair and skin and it is a dream to work on her because you don’t need to do too much.

How much has Bollywood make-up changed?

I still remember the pancake make-up or the bouffant… those days it was a trend. Make-up has become minimal. They go grand only for the red carpet.

And the Indian ramp?

There is an evolution. You do see out-of-the-box looks. Make-up doesn’t have to be pretty or beautiful. Make-up has become edgy and different. Good make-up doesn’t mean perfect eyes and lips. It can be anything… messy lips or just a stain on the eyes or bushy eyebrows. It has become different now.

Who is your favourite designer?

Sabyasachi (Mukherjee), always. I have done a couple of shoots with him. He has recommended me as a bridal make-up artist to everyone in Delhi. He is way ahead of anyone else when it comes to his work and creativity. When it comes to hair and make-up, he is very organic and keeps it clean. He loves kohl eyes.

You were in Calcutta for Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!…

For a pretty long time. Swastika Mukherjee’s was a very ’40s look… vintage waves. She was lovely to work with. We needed those tight curls in the hair and I used to put rollers and she used to sleep with the rollers on!

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