Laying a new foundation

It was a historic day for female make-up artistes as one of them won a case against the male dominance in the field

The Supreme Court has finally ended the reign of male make-up artistes in the film and television industry, terming it “an absolute violation of constitutional value and norms”. Upholding a petition filed by make-up artiste, Charu Khurana, the apex court ruled that no discrimination should be made on the basis of gender and domicile.

 Charu Khurana, seen here with Abhishek Bachchan, took the legal route to fight absurd rules of the Cine Costume Make Up Artistes and Hair Dressers Association, preventing women from working as make-up artistes
Charu Khurana, seen here with Abhishek Bachchan, took the legal route to fight absurd rules of the Cine Costume Make Up Artistes and Hair Dressers Association, preventing women from working as make-up artistes

Khurana, who had been fighting this case for more than four years, is thrilled with the verdict and likely to get a membership card of the Cine Costume Make Up Artistes and Hair Dressers Association in the next 10 days. Industry sources say around 1,500 make-up men are part of the association.

Aamir Khan

However, the judgment does not seem to have gone down well with the male make-up artistes. They are worried that they may go out of job if women are given membership. Sharad Shelar, president of the association, says, “Following the court order, we will issue cards to women artistes but they will not be eligible to do both make-up and hairstyling. If the union starts issuing cards for both the jobs, male members will suffer. We will also look at their qualifications before issuing the membership cards.”

Pooja Bhatt

Veteran make-up artiste Jaywant Thakre, who won an award for Devdas, does not pull his punches while talking about women entering what was hitherto a male bastion. He says, “I don’t feel threatened and am not against women artistes but our field is such that is not going to be easy for them. Right now, they are all excited (about the court verdict) but the ground reality is something else. I fear that they will tend to use gender to their advantage — there have been similar cases in the past. I also fear women’s entry will finish the career of male artistes, who are considering it as a profession.”

Farah Khan

While Shelar says about five to six applications from women artistes for membership are pending with him, hairstylist Namrata Soni has decided that she will not become a member. She recalls a recent incident when members from the make-up association landed up on the sets of Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo when she was fixing Sonam Kapoor’s hair. She says, “They couldn’t reach me and instead, met Salman Khan. I have been harassed a lot of times in the past but have never paid a fine (the penalty is Rs 15,000). It had once happened on Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om sets but she stood up for me. I will never take membership nor will I pay a fine. India is a free country and one is allowed to practise any profession. I don’t care about the union.”

Thakre does not react kindly to Soni’s statement. “She does not have a make-up artiste membership card.

She only has a hairstylist card and is taking away somebody else’s work which is unfair,” he retorts.

Filmmaker Farah Khan, who became the first woman to enter the Rs 100-crore club with Happy New Year, sides with the women artistes. “I am thrilled with the judgment. When this ban existed, I always tried to go around it by hiring women make-up artistes and no union member dared to come on my sets. It was a 100-year old archaic law when men used to dress up as women and act in movies. If a woman can make a movie why can’t she do make-up,” she asks. Aamir Khan echoes Farah. “I welcome the decision of the Supreme Court. This was long over due,” he says.

On the other hand, actress-turned-producer Pooja Bhatt takes a neutral stand, stating: “I will not hire someone on the basis of gender but skills.”

Tireless crusader

Charu Khurana had formally applied for membership as a make-up professional in 2009 but it was turned down. Then she approached Dinesh Chaturvedi of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), who issued a letter allowing her to work as a make-up artiste across the country. But when Charu went to Chennai in search of work, she was in for a rude shock — the association in the South refused to honour the FWICE letter. Disheartened, she filed a complaint with the National Commission for Women (NCW) against industry rules that stated that only men could be make-up artistes and women just hairdressers. NCW presented her case to the Supreme Court last year. During the last five years, Charu lost out on several projects, including South films, due to the make-up unions’ interference. Now, with the SC’s judgment, a brighter future awaits her. “As I was not allowed to go on the sets, I had to share my earnings with others. But this judgment will help me bounce back,” she says.

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