October 8th, 2013
From opera starlets to children in the slums, Natasha Nischol talks making over both Hollywood and Bollywood.
Growing up in a family of artists and filmmakers, Natasha Nischol was naturally drawn to make-up from a very young age. Her combined love for art and cinema and her fascination with transformation made it the perfect platform to fuse her passions.
Natasha met her make-up partner in crime, Virginia Holmes, in 2004. “Virginia likes to say we were set up on a make-up blind date,” Natasha explains. “We kind of had a life swap. I went to the UK in 2000 when Virginia came to India at exactly the same time. We didn’t know each other then and were both pursuing our dreams of make-up and living in cities we both loved. On my return to India at the end of 2004, a few mutual friends thought we should meet and put us in touch and as they say the rest is history.”
Working under hair and make-up designer Jenny Shircore on Phantom of the Opera was a career highlight for Natasha, “It was loads of fun and über-creative. I still call Jenny for advice to this day. She is so inspiring and I think I learnt more working with her than I did in my three years at college. Even today I always ask myself what Jenny would do. My thought process in research and design as well as running a hair and make-up department, I get from Jenny. She advised me to keep it simple and make it work.”
She says working with Danny Boyle, director of Slumdog Millionaire, was both a collaborative process and a chance to run free. “He was very open to ideas and inputs. He said we should be like mini directors running our various departments and so there was a lot of trust involved. It was fantastic working with him and his regular crew, and keeping up pace with them. Danny does not sleep and so his crew doesn’t either. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but the key word is ‘slight’. He is such an amazing man and visionary, and so inspiring and nice to work with that you want to do it and he manages to bring out the best in you, it’s quite something. There were always three cameras on at any point and sometimes we even had three units running simultaneously. And then of course there’s the last minute sudden genius idea thrown in (which a lot of directors do) and you have to spring up to the challenge and make it work. So always a couple steps ahead, Virginia and I would repeat the experience in a heartbeat.”
Natasha counts Slumdog as her favourite project to work on, “It was all so much fun to do! Whether it was linking up the three stages of each actor, the teen Latika look in the brothel when they first see her dancing, Freida (Pinto)’s scar was quite a significant part of the story and of course covering little Jamal in chocolate – everyone talks about to this day. The cast were so dreamy that it was a pleasure working with them.”
In 2006, Natasha and Virginia opened The Fat MU Academy based in Mumbai, offering make-up services and education of international standards. While working in India, they noticed a lack in educational spaces and the opportunities available for people. “Virginia and I have both been educated in the UK and have worked there as well as here and so we thought why not combine the best of both and create a platform and opportunity for people where they can come and learn and grow with a real hands on experience. We are constantly upping our skills and bringing them back here ensuring our students are up to date with the very best and latest in the field. We also invite visiting artists to conduct master classes, again to offer a platform for growth for those who cannot afford to travel out. We now have a senior instructor from the UK- Karen Teitge – who helps us run the academy with the rest of the Fat MU team. So the students are getting the best of both worlds.”
“Our motto has three Ps – Passion, Potential, Perfection. Have the passion to begin with and we’ll help you reach your potential and perfect it. The philosophy behind our school is to offer the best possible education, to bridge the gap between east and west with both worlds merging fast and to teach our students to think for themselves. We aim to create not just artists, but designers so they’re encouraged from day one to think for themselves; to be creative rather than just follow what others are doing.”
The name for the academy came from English actor, Tat Whalley, “We were shooting a series for Hallmark and Tat was going in to give his shot. He was chatting to us beforehand and we asked him to Help us think of a name – and so he goes in gives his shot and finishes and says FAT MU! We didn’t know if he was giving his shot or thinking of the name. Anyway we loved it and knew right then that was it.”
With success across Hollywood and Bollywood, Natasha says she would next like to work on independent European cinema as well as Chinese Cinema. “That would be a dream come true for me and just working across the globe in film, editorial or consulting with a make-up brand would be fantastic.”
Natasha playfully teases that she and Virginia are working on a couple of “really cool projects that we aren’t allowed to talk about yet. Watch this space. Other than that I have just been signed on as a make-up expert and creative consultant for Lakme, India’s biggest beauty brand for Indian women. What with regular shoots as well as our company and the academy, it ensures we are kept quite busy!”