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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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.