In the present day, we’re surrounded by great content and all sorts of movies. We have many actors being praised for their amazing work, winning awards left and right, but there are also backstage champions that help the onscreen ones look as splendid as they do, from Bajirao to Alauddin Khilji, and sadly more often than not, they’re forgotten and not given their fair share of credit.
We are in conversation with one such behind the lens star, who works day in and day out to make actors on reel look amazing – the super bright and extremely talented, 19-year-old budding makeup artist: Samruddhi Sathe!
Simran Pavecha (SP): Tell us about your love for makeup, did you have any inspirations in wanting to become a makeup artist?
Samruddhi Sathe (SS): I’ve been dancing for the last 14 years, I mostly do freestyle and a little bit of contemporary but I’ve been trained a bit in Kathak and Bharatnatyam. Whenever we’d have school functions or events, I’d see a lot of makeup artists coming, and every time they’d do our makeup, I’d always think how I’d be able to do it better.
Also, my nani has always been super into makeup and skincare, and ever since I was a kid, she would encourage me to try and use makeup, and she’d be like you know what, “jo karna hain karo” and that’s where my love for makeup started.
I remember feeling great about it, and then I started experimenting with looks, and with makeup on myself I’d always think that I could picture myself doing this for the rest of my life. I feel like things inspire me more than people, like colour palettes, nature and even just looking at makeup products in general, I even get inspired by the different colors on the packaging itself.
SP: What’s your schooling been like? Are you currently enrolled in a college/university?
SS: I went to school till 11th grade and then I quit school, after which I did my 12th privately. I homeschooled for my 12th and gave my board exams.
Then, I went to Paris for my makeup education. I did the TV & Cinema master’s makeup programme from Makeup Forever Academy, TV and Cinema Academy in Paris for a year.
When it comes to being a makeup artist, there are different types of programmes, but there’s no such thing as requiring a graduation degree, but you do have levels of difficulties in the programme.
I had previously done like a basic makeup programme with Kryolan when I was 15, so that counted. I did the Kryolan course in Hyderabad, at the Mirrors Academy for a month and finished it in two weeks.
SP: When did your tryst with Bollywood happen?
SS: So, it started the year I quit school in 2015. I applied for my private school, but my exams didn’t happen until 2016. I didn’t want to sit idle the entire year and it was at that point that my mom suggested doing hairstyling, and I did a four month course with L’oreal after which I got a really good opportunity to go to Canada for the Toronto International Film Festival. I met wonderful people there, who were also instrumental in me getting where I am today.
Like the director of Paanch, Leena Yadav and the cinematographer and also her husband, Aseem Bajaj. They treat me like their daughter. So when we came back here, Aseem Uncle was the cinematographer for Shivaay and essentially the one who pushed me to take the opportunity. He introduced me to the head of the makeup department at Shivaay. On the very first day of the shooting, I remember feeling that this is exactly what I want to do.
SP: Okay. Could you tell us a list of the movies you’ve worked on?
SS: As soon as I came back from Paris in 2017, I started with 102 Not Out. The filming started in May and continued till November, and the last thing we did for the movie was in January this year which was a promotional event.
Then, we had Blackmail, where I didn’t work on the entire film, but only on one of the songs.
Other than that, there’s Andhadhun by Sriram Raghavan, starring Ayushman Khurrana and Radhika Apte. Work for Andhadhun had started in May 2017, and I was a part of the company team then.
The second movie was a Malayalam movie called Kayamkulam Kochunni, directed by Roshan Andrews. This was also a part of the company, and this was also my last project with them. Since then, I have been freelancing.
SP: Samruddhi, how would you describe the Indian makeup scene in contrast with the West?
SS: Makeup artists here aren’t given their due respect and they’re not considered technicians.
We are not only just artists but we’re also technicians, because we literally create the looks for the characters. Without a perfect makeup layout for a character, the actor cannot get into it. The makeup artists and the actors complement each other. I do genuinely appreciate how the directors are finally getting their due share of respect, but the rest of the technicians including the cinematographer/the wardrobe team/the lighting team still have a long way to go.
Also, in the west, whatever you have is at your beck and call. But in India, as a prosthetic artist, 90% of the material that you need won’t be available, so we’d have to call for it from abroad and it is expensive. I wish that India would start having materials so that we can do our jobs well.
Even beauty makeup – we’ve started getting a lot of brands in India but it still isn’t enough for beauty makeup; for example, 90% of my makeup kit isn’t from India, I collected it overtime while traveling. India has diverse skin shades and a lot of the companies only cater to the fair skin needs here, which doesn’t even make sense since we’re all women of colour here.
SP: Did you face any backlash on your decision of choosing to be a makeup artist?
SS: Absolutely! From my distant family to my school teachers, my peers! A lot of people in school would keep asking me if I’m sure and if it made sense. They thought it was a cool idea but they were skeptical about the decision I was taking – about not putting my education before my passion.
My dad’s family was more hesitant, given that we have our family business and they really wanted me to take over. My mom’s side was more supportive, they’d tell me that “jo karna hain beta karo, hum tumhey support karengey.” But for a long time, my dad’s side tried to talk me out of it, and they’d ask me if I’m going to be able to survive on this profession.
Even when I told my teachers, they said that it’s not going to work out. But I think that attitude has to be faced by anyone who doesn’t want to do engineering, medicine or other mainstream things. This attitude, I think, is problematic.
SP: What do you think about the stereotypes attached to women who use makeup?
SS: It angers me a lot! I wish I had a bigger platform to talk about it and use my voice. Women should be free to do whatever they want, to their face or their body whether it’s plastic surgery or makeup. I feel like a lot of women are shaming other women for doing things that shouldn’t even be looked down upon. It’s just makeup, it’s going to come off at the end of the day.
Makeup is about representing who you are, feeling good in your own skin and just being happy, confident and comfortable. I’m not a makeup artist because I want to please men, I don’t even look at men. I’d rather get complimented by women because they think that I look pretty with my makeup on. If women don’t support other women, then who’s going to support women?
And, I’m a feminist. I also don’t get the stigma around it, people are just blowing it out of proportion. And this whole thing on the internet, that ‘take your girl to the pool on your first date so you can see her face without makeup on.’ What utter crap! It’s sick and disgusting.
SP: Where do you see yourself five years down the line? Do you see yourself coming up with your own brand or make-up line?
SS: I do want to start off with my own makeup line. One of my biggest goals in life is to have my own brand, to have my own cosmetic company. I want India to have what the US has. I want my fellow mates who wear makeup and my fellow makeup artists to have all the resources and options that we need and would like to avail.
I really want to get rid of the stigma in India that you’ll only be beautiful if you’re fair, and that you’ll have to use light foundation even if you’re a woman of color. That is just sad.
It has started with Indian brands because they don’t cater to women of colour. Lakme recently came up with their new range, they had 5 shades, 4 of them were for fair skin and one of them was for medium tone. That doesn’t even make sense.
SP: What are the things that you swear by while using makeup?
SS: Less is more, always wear less makeup than you think you need. If you wear too much, it’s going to look very cakey and it’s going to be obvious.
Make sure your foundation is the right colour, don’t use a shade lighter/darker than yours. Make sure it’s the correct shade for your skin and that’s how you trick people into making them think that you’ve amazing skin.
And the last one is the most important: skincare! Your skincare is everything because if your canvas is bad, the painting is also going to be bad. So, invest – even if you can’t afford a lot of expensive products, there are a lot of companies that are coming out with inexpensive skincare products, invest in it.
And, always wear sunscreen, it should be number one priority!
SP: What would you like to tell young makeup enthusiasts?
SS: Don’t follow YouTube tutorials because they aren’t going to teach you anything that’s technical. There are no rules when it comes to makeup. Just be yourself, do what you want and be confident about it.
Stop listening to people and learn to ignore them. When that happens, you’re going to realise that you’re extremely beautiful and you don’t need to hear crap from anyone, do what you want and just be you! This is cliche, but that is exactly how using makeup should be for everyone.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.