It was once considered that tattoos were a sign of social status, a show of bravery, identification signs during wars, as marks of fertility and used to convey many faiths — religious or memorial. These indelible ink marks have travelled through centuries before they assumed the form they bear today.
Let’s take the recent example of Aniruddha Roy’s Pink. Starring Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu, the movie has been in the news for several reasons, but the most interesting of all has been how Taapsee’s tattoo in the movie — that of a bird in flight, trying to open its wings to fly — has created a movement among women in the country. They are pledging their support to the movie’s cause of highlighting women’s rights, and consent, by replicating the tattoo. We trace this thriving movement of inking as a means of displaying a political stance, or a sign of fraternity for those who believe in the same cause.
Kangana’s tattoo on her neck
Ever since Pink’s release, tattoo artist Naveen N of Irezumi Tattoos in Chennai, has had at least 10 clients everyday asking to replicate the tattoo, he says. “This tattoo of a bird flying is an easy way to express oneself, and their identity. It represents freedom. Although this tattoo has always been there, I think there are many more who want it inked after the movie. Tattoos are no longer mere fashion trends and carry a lot of meaning and significance,” Naveen says.
The country’s leading tattooist, Sameer Patange, who is also Bollywood’s numero uno tattoo artist, says “Tattoos have always helped people in expressing their beliefs. I have tattooed a group of bikers called the Mad Bulls from Chennai (the Royal Enfield riders’ club). They wanted similar tattoos for the club as a sign of brotherhood. I inked actress Sushmita Sen, who has spoken a lot about independent women being capable of achieving what they wanted, and feminism — she wanted her beliefs to reflect in the tattoo as well. Kangana Ranaut also got a tattoo to represent her life journey and her struggle in a world dominated by men.”
For Mehak Aneja, 24, a film editor from Mumbai, a tattoo on her forearm — a symbol of women empowerment —helps start a conversation about feminism with those who misunderstand the concept. “I got the tattoo as I wanted it to be something that I would always believe in. Working in a corporate environment, which is full of sexist ideologies, the tattoo is a good way to start a conversation as people ask me what it means. Through this I want people to know feminism is for everyone, not just women, unlike what it is usually understood as. The tattoo will be something I will stand and fight for always,” she asserts.
Chennai resident Dhiraj Gopinath, who used to work at the Madras Crocodile Bank, says tattoos helped him express his love for nature, like for many other nature lovers — “I am a nature-oriented guy, and I always think of how my home (Chennai) changed over the years. So I got it inked on my arm on how the old Madras buildings looked like.”
As tattoo artist Max from Inkinn Tattoo Studio from Delhi says, tattoos today have gone way beyond catalogues — “It is good to see people ideating their beliefs and inking them. Catalogues today are rarely looked at as people have an idea of what they want, unlike a few years ago, when a tattoo was a mere fad.”