Jagged teeth and a receding hairline – Nawazuddin Siddiqui is hard to recognise in the upcoming thriller Mom. Siddiqui’s transformation is the result of special effects makeup designer Preetisheel Singh’s conviction that “makeup is no more about putting on lipstick or foundation and making a person look good”.

The July 7 release, directed by Ravi Udyawar, also stars Sridevi, Adnan Siddiqui, Akshaye Khanna and Sajal Ali. “For Mom, Ravi had a certain design in his mind,” Singh said. “Usually I read the full script and as per my understanding, I prepare the Photoshop designs of how the character is supposed to look in the movie. We decided that if we gave him fake teeth, it would change his dialect also a little bit, thereby adding character to the artist.”

Preetisheel Singh’s makeup design for Siddiqui in ‘Mom’.
Preetisheel Singh’s makeup design for Siddiqui in ‘Mom’.

Singh has managed to make heads turn with her work in the three years she has been in the Hindi film industry. Her credits stretch over 15 films, including Bajirao Mastani (2015) and Nanak Shah Fakir (2015) – the latter movie earned her a National Film Award for makeup. Apart from heading a prosthetic makeup effects laboratory in Mumbai, Singh is working on prestigious productions such as Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati and Vikramaditya Motwane’s Bhavesh Joshi.

“I always try to make the actor don a look that he or she hasn’t had before,” she said. She is trying to achieve the impossible in Padmavati, the period drama starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor. “Padmavati is set during the 12th century, and we don’t even have paintings from that era from where we can take references,” she said. “There are ideas for which you don’t see any references, for which I sketch it out. It doesn’t have to be something off a reference.”

Preetisheel Singh on the sets of ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’.
Preetisheel Singh on the sets of ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’.

Singh briefly worked in an engineering company before enrolling in the Cinema Makeup School in Los Angeles. She moved to Mumbai in 2011. Her first big break came with the Guru Nanak Dev biopic Nanak Shah Fakir. She also worked on Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani in the same year.

Apart from makeup, Singh has also worked on prosthetic design for the films 24 (2016), Finding Fanny (2014) and Rangoon (2017). “Besides providing quality makeup, my main motto is to provide services for any makeup related demands, under one roof,” she said. That is how she launched Da Makeup Lab, a special effects makeup studio, in 2014, which caters to body work, body painting, tattoo work and character designs.

Preetisheel Singh and Ranveer Singh on the sets of ‘Bajirao Mastani’.
Preetisheel Singh and Ranveer Singh on the sets of ‘Bajirao Mastani’.

“Prosthetic has a lot of parts involved in it,” Singh explained. “You first take the life cast of the actor in 3D measurement after which you sculpt and make moulds, running silicon pieces in it. The silicon pieces are then applied on the actor and are merged with the actor’s skin so that it doesn’t look artificial. So tomorrow if a filmmaker comes up and has the requirement for an alien creature, we can do it.”

Even as she wraps up projects such as Siddharth’s horror feature House Next Door and Bhavesh Joshi, Singh hopes to see Indian makeup artists take their place alongside their international counterparts. “In most Indian productions, makers usually prefer international makeup artistes for specialised skills,” she said. “I want to change that perception and provide utmost high standards in our work.”

Preetisheel Singh with Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
Preetisheel Singh with Nawazuddin Siddiqui.