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 catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers 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 internalised 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.