internet culture

In photos: A makeup artist from Bengaluru is making stunning looks for Instagram with bits and bobs

The 24-year-old draws inspiration from Star Wars, Japanese Manga and his mother.

In the privacy of his apartment in Bengaluru, Zeeshan Ali looked at himself in the mirror and wondered how he could turn himself into a unicorn.

It took him a day. Ali figured a way to sculpt a unicorn’s face on his own using papier mâché. For the unicorn’s mane, he created a wig using hundreds of strands of wool in pastel shades of mauve and pink. Then came the delicate and painstaking task of applying unicorn-appropriate makeup to the exposed skin on his neck, forehead and around his eyes. A few more hours passed in front of the mirror before he was finally satisfied. He snapped a picture on his phone and uploaded it to Instagram.

Tomorrow he will be a geisha.

A 24-year-old makeup artist and budding costume designer in Bengaluru, Ali was raised in Mumbai’s suburb, Bandra. He was studying to become a doctor, when he realised he was in the wrong career path.

“Making this big change was primarily fuelled by wanting to experience a more independent life by living on my own,” he said.“ I came to realise that pursuing a serious career in medicine lacked an element of excitement which in the long run could have destroyed my spirit. It was really hard to confront this truth with my family but I knew I had to be real with myself.”

Ali’s love for make up, he said, wasn’t only because it allowed him to be someone else, but because once it came off – he was able to appreciate the contrast. “It helps me appreciate both my real world and my fantasy world,” he said.

A graduate of the International Institute of Fashion Design, Bengaluru, Ali was recently shortlisted among the top 15 in a competition held by international professional makeup brand, Nyx Cosmetics. For his entries, Ali used a woodblock to create a pattern on his body in gold, and wore a two feet long, ornate golden headdress festooned with strings of beads and roses made of metallic fabric. “It took me three days to make the headdress. I used melted plastic to make the main body and had to shape and reshape it till I was happy with how it looked.”

Ali claims he is terrible at drawing and never creates a look on paper before he actually begins to put it together. “Each of my looks is created bit by bit and built from the bottom up. I have a concept in mind and then I use material and makeup to try and achieve a look I’m satisfied with.” Most recently, a headdress he made by cutting the aluminium mesh of fruit baskets and reassembling them with flowers and beads was featured in Harper’s Bazaar Bride.

Drawing on an assortment of inspirational sources, Ali’s style combines elements from sci-fi characters like Star Wars’ Padme Amidala and Japanese Manga characters. Ali meticulously experiments for hours to achieve a look. He usually photographs himself, creating stunning compositions with little else than the lights in his apartment, the timer option on his smartphone and backdrops engineered out of familiar block-printed bed spreads.

Once he is done photographing a look, he salvages what he can from the ensemble, carefully storing it in a room in his apartment, used exclusively for makeup, costumes and raw materials.

To gather materials and inspiration, Ali spends hours trawling through small shops and hawkers in Bengaluru’s Commercial Street area. “I love street shopping, [it is] something I learnt from my mother,” he said. “Fabric, artificial flowers, lace, beads, bits and bobs that catch my fancy; all find a way into one look or the other.”

Ali counts himself extremely fortunate to have parents who are progressive and encouraging. “My mother is the sweetest. she follows me on Instagram. A lot of the vintage style jewellery and traditional Kutchi embroidered fabrics that I use for some of my looks comes from her vast collection.”

All images courtesy Zeeshan Ali.

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From Indian pizzas in San Francisco to bhangra competitions in Boston

A guide to the Indian heart of these American cities.

The United States of America has for long been more than a tourist destination for Indians. With Indians making up the second largest immigrant group in the USA, North American cities have a lot to offer to the travel weary Indian tourist. There are umpteen reasons for an Indian to visit vibrant education and cultural hubs like Boston and San Francisco. But if you don’t have a well-adjusted cousin to guide you through the well-kept Indian secrets, this guide to the Indian heart of Boston and San Francisco should suffice for when you crave your fix.

Boston

If you aren’t easily spooked, Boston is the best place to be at in October due to its proximity to Salem. You can visit the Salem Witch Village to learn about present-day wiccans and authentic witchcraft, or attend séances and Halloween parades with ghosts, ghouls and other frightening creatures giving you a true glimpse of America during Halloween. But the macabre spirit soon gives way to a dazzling array of Christmas lighting for the next two months. The famed big Christmas trees are accompanied by festive celebrations and traditions. Don’t miss The Nutcracker, the sugar-laced Christmas adventure.

While it upholds its traditions, Boston is a highly inclusive and experimental university town. It welcomes scores of Indian students every year. Its inclusiveness can be gauged from the fact that Berklee College of Music released a well-received cover of AR Rahman’s Jiya Jale. The group, called the Berklee Indian Ensemble, creates compositions inspired by Indian musical styles like the Carnatic thillana and qawwali.

Boston’s Bollywood craze is quite widespread beyond the campuses too. Apple Cinemas in Cambridge and Regal Fenway Cinemas in Fenway can be your weekly fix as they screen all the major upcoming Bollywood movies. Boston tends to be the fighting ground for South Asian Showdowns in which teams from all over the North-Eastern coast gather for Bollywood-themed dance offs. The Bhangra competitions, especially, are held with the same energy and vigour as back home and are open to locals and tourists alike. If nothing else, there are always Bollywood flash mob projects you can take part in to feel proudly desi in a foreign land.

While travellers love to experiment with food, most Indian travellers will agree that they need their spice fix in the middle of any foreign trip. In that respect, Boston has enough to satisfy cravings for Indian food. North Indian cuisine is popular and widely available, but delicious South Indian fare can also be found at Udupi Bhavan. At Punjab Palace, you can dig into a typical North Indian meal while catching a Bollywood flick on one of their TVs. Head to Barbecue International for cross-continental fusion experiments, like fire-roasted Punjabi-style wings with mint and chilli sauce.

Boston is prominent on the radar of Indian parents scouting for universities abroad and the admission season especially sees a lot of prospective students and parents looking for campus tours and visits. To plan your visit, click here.

San Francisco

San Francisco is an art lover’s delight. The admission-free Trolley Dances, performed in October, focus on engaging with the communities via site-specific choreographies that reflect the city’s cultural diversity. Literature lovers can experience a Dickensian Christmas and a Victorian holiday party at The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, a month-long gala affair starting in November.

As an Indian, you’ll be spoilt for choice in San Francisco, especially with regards to food. San Francisco’s sizeable Indian population, for example, has several aces hidden up its sleeve. Take this video by Eater, which claims that the ‘Indian’ pizza at Zante’s Restaurant is the city’s best kept secret that needs outing. Desi citizens of San Francisco are big on culinary innovation, as is evident from the popularity of the food truck Curry Up Now. With a vibrant menu featuring Itsy Bitsy Naan Bits and Bunty Burrito and more, it’s not hard to see why it is a favourite among locals. Sunnyvale, with its large concentration of Indians also has quirky food on offer. If you wish to sample Veer Zaara Pizza, Dabangg Pizza or Agneepath Pizza, head to Tasty Subs & Pizza.

There are several Indian temples in Sunnyvale, Fremont and San Jose that also act as effective community spaces for gatherings. Apart from cultural events, they even hold free-for-all feasts that you can attend. A little-known haven of peace is the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple. Their Anjaneya World Cafe serves delicious mango lassi; the beverage is a big hit among the local population.

If you’re looking for an Indian movie fix during your travels, the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival’s theme this year is Bollywood and Beyond. Indian film enthusiasts are in for a treat with indie projects, art-house classics, documentaries and other notable films from the subcontinent being screened.

San Francisco’s autumn has been described as ‘Indian summer’ by the locals and is another good season to consider while planning a trip. The weather lends more vigour to an already vibrant cultural scene. To plan your trip, click here.

An Indian traveller is indeed spoilt for choice in Boston and San Francisco as an Indian fix is usually available just around the corner. Offering connectivity to both these cities, Lufthansa too provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its India-bound flights and flights departing from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.