The Supreme Court ruling that women be permitted to work as professional make-up artists comes as a welcome relief for thousands who have long been denied entry into this profitable vocation.
Hitherto, women were only allowed to work as hairdressers in the film and television industry and were paid lesser than their male counterparts who enjoyed an unfair monopoly over painting faces.
In my three decades as a filmmaker, I have often encountered talented young women, many of whom studied at prestigious academies abroad, and were deeply frustrated at being denied entry into this all-boys club. They pleaded with the unions to be allowed to work at jobs they were hugely qualified to do but they were always denied permission. Those producers who covertly employed women as make-up artists found that they were soon ratted out to the unions. They were promptly issued threats that their productions would be shut down and some even had their sets vandalised. The message being sent, unequivocally, was that this was the exclusive realm of the menfolk.
One could argue that the art, some may say science, of applying make-up is a decidedly feminine grace and women would undoubtedly be as, if not more, adept as men at this job.
Obviously, this gender discrimination has no basis in professional competence but rather in applying restrictive practices on the fairer sex. A make-up man is traditionally called dada in the film and television industry and this seems to have been a case of fiscal dadagiri. The fee charged by top make-up men is upwards of Rs 10,000 a face and it is easy to imagine why they would not welcome rivals. Most actors, certainly the female ones, would be more comfortable having a woman stand in close proximity for extended periods applying blusher, bronzer and highlighter to their famous faces. Perhaps fearing that they would lose out on lucrative jobs, these men banded together, fought long and hard to keep women from encroaching on their turf.
It took one determined female make-up professional, Charu Khurana, the will to battle the establishment and finally have the Supreme Court decree that such a policy is “unacceptable, impermissible and inconsistent” with the Constitutional rights guaranteed to all citizens.
Now that women have finally stormed this male bastion, we can expect to see a lot more female professionals enter the industry. Rather than becoming embittered, male make-up artists should graciously welcome the infusion of new blood and work in a spirit of healthy competition.
As with all professions, it is vital that the old players brush up on their skills and up their game to remain relevant. Perform or perish. Kiss and make-up.