KATHMANDU, May 22: His fingers move dexterously with dabs and puffs, and all within some moments, these fingers will have transformed a face.
It’s a profession not many of men would think of opting for. But Amrit Marahattha is a makeup artist. It’s his hands that are responsible for making numerous female actors look glamorous for parties and functions, or render weary if they are in tragic moods.
He makes the hero’s skin glow for romancing the heroine onscreen or painting his body with blood while fighting a goon.
“I love my profession,” he says. At 28, Amrit works as an independent makeup artist and is counted among the most sought-after in the Nepali film and television industry. As of now, he has over 25 films to his credit. And it’s not only films he has worked for; there are around 80 music videos, multiple fashion shows, and numerous other fashion shoots he has labored on.
His portfolio boasts of highly acclaimed films like “Loot,” the recent blockbuster, and “Highway,” Nepal’s first selection at the Berlin International Film Festival. Asked how it feels to be acclaimed and admired, he says, “I’m happy with my profession, and more so these days as my recent films have done very well. I have special memories with both.”
While shooting for Loot, there was a particular scene Amrit toiled hard for. “It’s the scene where Saugat Malla and Dayahang Rai engage in a fight which is shot in a slaughterhouse. It took us a few hours to complete the scene and the stink almost made me puke and I couldn’t eat meat for more than a month after the shot,”
About Highway, he says, “I could’ve done so much more, now that I look at it,” adding, “but that happens with every project. One is never satisfied and I think we shouldn’t be, either, as it kills creativity and enthusiasm.”
Alongside working on films, which he takes as projects, Amrit is associated with the Terai Television. It’s an everyday job he does there, but has a personal favorite among the many shows.
“The Flop Show” is a weekly standup comedy where in every episode he gets to turn the anchor into a famous personality through his makeup skills. “Once I did an Amitabh Bachchan look and received many compliments,” shares the artist.
Considering the fact that he has made a position for himself among the top few in the field, it comes as a surprise that Amrit has had no prior training on the art of makeup. He learnt the tricks of the trade on the job. It just happened that one day he was offered to work as a makeup assistant on a project and he quickly accepted. “That was around a decade ago,” he recalls, adding, “I used to work in the costume department back then.”
A local of Kathmandu, Amrit joined the film industry immediately after completing his School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examinations. Since he had abundance of free time at hand with nothing particular to do, he agreed on an offer made by Purushottam Pradhan, a cinematographer who has the success of “Loot” under his belt, to work as a spot boy for a film. “I jumped at the offer, like any other young boy fascinated with cinema,” he shares.
But soon after joining the industry that had charmed him, Amrit learnt that not all was as golden. He left his job as spot boy. “People can be mean and a spot boy on a film set is literally a servant, and I couldn’t bear that,” says Amrit.
He then decided on working on the technical side. He was handling the light department, but that job didn’t suit him, either. “I was too short for that job and the equipments were too heavy,” he giggles.
Later still, Amrit joined the costume unit and was quite enjoying it when something unpleasant happened. “I was asked to polish the male actor’s shoes and that too while he still wore them. I felt severely insulted at the moment and quit that job too.”
The next step saw him trying out in the makeup department, which he has enjoyed thoroughly from day one.
“You get this sense of achievement after you see the artist on the screen,” Amrit shares.
And it’s these moments of joy and self-satisfaction that keep Amrit on the job, because financially, being a makeup artist has a long way before it can be considered a lucrative profession.
“The situation is definitely improving but it will still take a few more years,” he exhales. It’s not only the financial matters associated with his job that bother Amrit, he is concerned about the respect and creativity issues too.
“See, in our country a makeup artist is given very little respect. In fact, we’re called makeup man instead of an artist,” he complains. This very fact would anger him in the initial days but now he says he doesn’t mind much. “I think of it this way,” he explains, “we only apply makeup and there’s not much artwork done. So it’s fine to be called a makeup man.”
He, however, does dream of becoming a “true makeup artist” someday. To fulfill his dream, and because Nepal doesn’t have a single school offering training on the art subject, Amrit makes use of the Internet. He is part of a makeup artists’ community online and borrows files and documents online.
"I hope someday some director will make a film like the Amitabh Bachhan-starrer “Paa” and I’m given a chance to work on the makeup. I think that’ll be my biggest achievement,” he smiles.