Deccan Chronicle

Celluloid doppelgangers

Deccan Chronicle| Sashidhar Adivi

Published on: September 27, 2021 | Updated on: September 28, 2021

Thanks to prosthetic makeup, biopic stars have managed to achieve an as-near-as-possible look' like real-life characters they're playing

Ranveer Singh and Kapil Dev

Ranveer Singh and Kapil Dev

When the first look of Ranveer Singh (as former Team India cricket captain Kapil Dev) from the film 83 was released, film lovers wondered how fantastically he had transformed himself into a Kapil look-alike.

With the use of modern prosthetics and makeup tricks, actors can now be made to look very much like the real-life characters they are essaying. The Gully Boy star bears a striking resemblance to the veteran cricketer who led India to its first World Cup win, with his bushy moustache and hairdo, in the Kabir Khan directorial.

Kapil Dev and Ranveer Singh

The film’s co-producer Vishnu Induri says a lot of detailing went into achieving the desired look. The makers wanted the actor to emulate and not mimic the part. "We were looking for shades of Kapil Dev in Ranveer Singh; we never wanted the latter to mimic the former," says Vishnu, while stressing that no two people can look exactly alike.

Kapil Dev’s jutting, aggressive jaw wasn’t easy to replicate. Neither was his wide, dimpled smile or his skin tone. "It’s not only about looking like Kapil Dev, it’s about embodying that persona. When people are saying that Ranveer has a striking resemblance to Kapil, it is not about makeup, but the expressions," he feels. According to Vishnu, getting the looks right is only half the battle won. "Ranveer spent around 10 days at Kapil Dev’s home to understand the nuances of his personality, body language, attitude, etc. All this made the character look comprehensive," he explains.

Another film that relied heavily on prosthetics makeup for the principal characters was the recently released Thalaivii, starring Kangana Ranaut. In the biopic of the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, Arvind Swamy took on the role of the late legendary MGR.

Pattanam Rasheed transformed Aravind Swami into MGR

One of the biggest challenges for the filmmakers was to get the looks right through all phases of the Jayalalithaa-MGR association, starting from his entry into cinema and politics. National award-winning Make-Up Artiste Pattanam Rasheed, who worked extensively on Arvind Swamy’s makeup, says he had to apply a lot of cosmetics to get the desired look.

"Arvind Sir doesn’t like too much makeup, since his complexion is very fair. The challenge was to recreate the look of MGR sir in various timelines," he says, adding that  he took around a week to get a perfect understanding of the makeup.

"I used a specially-designed prosthetic teeth set on Arvind sir to get the jawline right. To depict the look of an aged MGR we used a special shading technique on Arvind sir’s skin, apart from the double chin and the prosthetics used near the neck," he adds.

Quite a task

Senapathi Venkata Appala Naidu, who worked as makeup artiste for Baahubali, and upcoming films like the Prabhas-starrer Salaar and Rajamouli’s RRR, gives us a bird’s eye view of what goes into prosthetics.

Senapathi Venkata Appala Naidu adjusting Prabhas accessories on the sets of Baahubali

Naidu says in Baahubali, they initially made a mask of the actor’s face, using dental material. Once this ‘negative’ image of the face is ready, they apply clay to it to make it into a ‘positive’ image. "We then use silicon (dragon skin) to get the skull of the structure. Then paste the original mask on the skull to get the desired look," he reveals. The silicon comes from Mumbai.

"For Baahubali we used around 100 litres of silicon. Since I had to do the process for all the actors, it was demanding and exhaustive too," he says, adding that such processes require great team effort.

Computer graphics too needed

Interestingly, prosthetics makeup artistes can get the look up to only 70 per cent right and the rest is adjusted using Computer Graphics (CG). "CG corrects a few lapses in real-time, and elevates the look close to perfection," explains Naidu. Shiva, another makeup artiste, describes a particular challenge.

"The Indian climatic conditions — the heat and the humidity — aren’t suitable for prosthetics. So once the actor puts on prosthetic make-up he has to get into an air-conditioned room so that he doesn’t sweat," reveals Shiva, who is working on Maha Samudram and Indian 2. Sweat damages the prosthetic make-up. "It’ll change the contours, and consequently the actor’s expression will also change," he says.

Reflecting character: My work is not just about using make-up products and cosmetics but more about character design. After understanding the character traits, I create a look by sketching it or making a photoshopped design for the director to see. It’s very challenging to execute prosthetics in India, mainly due to a lack of FX material supplies. So stocking up whenever one gets a chance is important," says Preetisheel Singh D’souza, National Award-winning hair, make-up and prosthetic character designer, who worked on films like Padmaavat, Bajirao Mastani, Housefull 4, Thackeray and Bala

Preetisheel Singh D'Souza working on Ranveer Singh's look in Padmaavat

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