Akshay Kumar, Ayushmann Khurrana and Sunny Singh created a buzz around their films with their bald looks but far removed from the spotlight was make-up artiste Preetisheel Singh, whose months of quiet perseverance let the men make all the noise. The three actors featured as bald men in "Housefull 4", "Bala" and "Ujda Chaman", respectively, with all the films timed for back-to-back release.
Preetisheel, along with her team, created all the three looks at her workspace, Da Make Lab in Versova suburbs here. "There was a time, everywhere I looked, there was 'Bala', 'Ujda Chaman', 'Housefull 4' and the controversies related to them. It was crazy, how all these bald men characters came together," Preetisheel told PTI in an interview.
Ayushmann's first look from "Bala" was released in August with a teaser, generating anticipation among the audience. A month later, the trailer of Abhishek Pathak's "Ujda Chaman" came out. But the similarities between the three finally took a form when Akshay dropped his song, also titled "Bala"- showing him as a bald man - from "Housefull 4" early last month.
Comparisons between "Bala" and "Ujda Chaman" were stronger, to the point that the audience even questioned who copied whom, considering both the films showed their leading men struggling with premature baldness. For the National Award-winning make-up artiste, however, the similarities between the two stopped at the use of "bald cap", as both the characters were different.
"Ayushmann is different from how Sunny looks. That creates a barrier. From my side I try to give looks as different as possible. If two people are losing hair, a bald cap has to be applied, there are no two ways about it. But after reading a script, small characteristics of a person matter to me. Like which region does he come from - north or south, what kind of job he has and his family background. These factors help me build a character, not just saying 'I will just put a bald cap and a wig'."
Least bothered about impending comparisons, Preetisheel had different sets of challenges with each film. In "Housefull 4", which she was offered first, the task was to complete the bald cap for Akshay in less than 30 minutes. The process usually takes two hours. "To do a full-fledged bald cap, with colouring, merging, we take one-and-a-half to two hours. Whatever I could pre-colour, I did, then I got extra people on the team. We kept a lot of things ready."
The brief for the role was - a man gets a 'mundan' (tonsure) but the hair never grows back - where his baldness was a tool to generate humour.
"So his bald look is totally clean, with no hair. Since the makers wanted to show his notorious side, I added a Raavan moustache and completed the look," she added.
"Bala", on the other hand, was aimed as a sensitive take on a man grappling with hair loss, so Preetisheel's work was far more extensive this time. "Ayushmann's character is from lower middle class, a guy who sells fairness cream. When you have fuller hair, your body confidence is more, but when you have lost your hair, you are wearing a cap, your confidence gets low. We thought of giving him a clean shaven look too, because his character isn't flamboyant."
The artiste did a look test over a period of three days with Ayushmann, applying a bald cap and trying several wigs with the prosthetic process taking two hours. "There are certain things you have to keep in mind for production costs. For Akshay, they could afford any number of people on set. For a budgeted film, the number of people working on it changes. For example, there would be three artistes working, one would be the wig person and the other two for bald caps."
Preetisheel took the least amount of time to prepare for the bald look for "Ujda Chaman" despite not reading the script. "I usually read scripts before beginning my work. But for this one, we were approached last minute. We were told they need a bald look. The brief was the same, a guy who is losing hair. Then I designed the look, which was pretty much bang on in the first trial itself. After two three days they began the shoot."
Asked how she managed to create the look without reading the script, Preetisheel said, "After years of practice, you know what to give when someone asks for a look." Prior to these three films, Da Makeup Club also worked on this year's "Gone Kesh", which featured a bald female lead in actor Shweta Tripathi. Her filmography — with credits including designing Ranveer Singh's menacing Khilji in "Padmaavat", Amitabh Bachchan's endearing look in "102 Not Out" and the recent success, "Bigil" — contains a clue which perhaps foretold what 2019 would look like for her.
"On 'Bajirao Mastani', I used to put bald caps for everyone. Only Ranveer had shaved off his head. But for Milind Soman, Aditya Pancholi, Ranveer's kids and his younger brother in the film, every morning I used to go from one vanity van to the other carrying their bald caps. So maybe this was meant to be," she added.