Makeup artist Nellai V.Shanmugam talks about Rajnikanth’s looks in ‘Kabali’


An interview with Kabali Makeup artist Nellai V.Shanmugam

BNI-Kabali-Makeup artist Nellai V.Shanmugam

‘Kabali’ Makeup artist Nellai V.Shanmugam

Rajinikanth-starrer ‘Kabali’ was the most-awaited film of the year. BNI finds out more about the look sported by Superstar Rajnikanth in the movie.

Starting his career 4 decades back, Nellai V Shanmugam today is known for Rajnikanth’s makeup in the much anticipated super hit  movie ‘Kabali’.

Having worked in more than 200 films with top actors and actresses in Kollywood industry, Mr.Shanmugam is a veteran in the art of movie makeup and also specializes in special effects makeup. His work has been much appreciated, and he received gold medal appreciation for Sarathkumar starrer Tamil movie ‘Suryavamsam’.

BNI with the help of Chennai’s acclaimed bridal makeup artist Sridevi Ramesh reveals how Mr. Shanmugam got his big break and created the charismatic yet feisty look for Rajnikanth in year’s biggest super hit ‘Kabali’.

BNI-Kabali-Makeup artist Nellai V.Shanmugam-and-Producer Kalaippuli-S-Thanu

(L)Producer Kalaippuli S Thanu and (R )Nellai V.Shanmugam

‘Kabali’ is certainly a big break, how did you get it?

I have been in the industry for the past  40 years, it is quite a long time. My past movies as makeup artist include ‘Aladdin Arpootha Vilakku’ with Rajni, ‘Suryavamsam’ with Sarath Kumar, ‘Kaakha Kaakha’ with Surya and various Tamil films .

Since I have been working with producer Thanu for many years, he recommended me for Kabali. One of the leading producers in Kollywood, Mr.Thanu had faith in my makeup work and that’s how I got to work for ‘Kabali’.

What was Rajni’s character and the brief to create Rajni’s look for the movie?

In the movie, Rajni’s character was that of a leader of  Malasiyan gangster group. Director Ranjith wanted  to create a flamboyant yet sophisticated look from the 70’s-80’s. A lot of preparation went into that and with  guidance from Banu and Abdulla I worked hard to created the desired look.

BNI-Kabali-Makeup artist Nellai V.Shanmugam-with-Rajnikanth-1

Makeup artist Nellai V.Shanmugam with Rajnikanth

How was the experience working with Superstar Rajni?

It was great experience working with a super star like him. My personal opinion about Rajni sir is that he is very friendly, encouraging, punctual and caring. With God’s grace and blessings, this wonderful dream has come true of working with a movie star of this stature.

How was the entire experience working for such a big movie?

 It was quite a challenging task to create looks for two different generations from past and present.

Take us through how you created Rajni’s look for the movie.

As the look was that of a gangster, I labored hard to create numerous hair styles.  It was rigorous task. Director Ranjith, Rajni, Banu and Abudulla helped finalize the looks.

How much time each day was spent in Rajni’s makeup?

Major chunk of ‘Kabali’ was shot in Malaysia and Goa. 65-days schedule in Malaysia and 20-days in Goa made the shoot hectic and daunting. Everyday 8 to 10 hrs  was spent in Rajini’s Makeup, to attain that perfection and continuity. It was meticulous and painful but it had to be done every time, without fail.

Kabali-Telugu-Movie-Review-Rating-hit-or-flopWhat products were used to create Rajni’s look in the movie?

The Kabali makeup was all about perfection whether it was an indoor or outdoor shoot. Bobbi brown, Kryolan & Mac  were the major brands used to create the look.

Did you do makeup for others on the set too?

Yes, I did make up for all major characters in the movie.

It was surely not to be achieved alone but with the help of my team consisting of six assistant makeup artists, two hair dresser assistants & a Tatoo artist,  all from Chennai, Tamil Nadu.


Radhika Apte in ‘Kabali’

We created looks for Radhika Apte, Dhansika and also of side characters like some gangsters with tattoos. Temporary water proof tattoos which was created for groups had look same every day. It was done by a tatoo artist from Chennai with stencil airbrush technique which was arranged by my son Vishu. As I said, meticulous and quite challenging but I am glad by my team’s performance, in the end everything turned out well. Hard work pays, always.

Any Makeup tips for our viewers.

Natural flaw less look is in fashion. Take care of your skin and you wouldn’t need any makeup.

Now that Kabali is a hit how do you feel?

It was great honour to be part of super  hit movie like Kabali. I would like to thank all team members of ‘Kabali’ for their support and extend special thanks to Thanu, Rajni, Director Ranjith.

BNI-Nellai V.Shanmugam-with-his team-on-sets-of-Kabali

Nellai V.Shanmugam with his team on sets of Kabali

What more movies are in line that you will be doing?

I am presently working for movie in pipeline- ‘Ketta Siva motta Siva’ and ‘Maaveeran Kittu’.

What are your future plans?

Now that Kabali is a super hit, the movie’s success has thrown me into spotlight. Opportunities are flowing in and I am certainly looking forward to work in more films.



About Author

Leave A Reply