Who doesn’t want to look beautiful like a film actress in the real world? Well, all of us admire the beautiful faces onscreen, but only a few of us know the amount of hard work required to get that glam look on screen.
Showbiz stylist Madiha Qaiser helps our actors to make their on-screen character look real and familiar with their styling creativity. Starting her career as in-house stylist, she has worked with big names of the industry like Maram and Aabroo and Tariq Amin. Her big break came with an offer to style Sanam Saeed in her upcoming film Bachaana. But before the film released, she received another request from actor/director Adnan Sarwar for the look of his biopic Shah.
She currently works at Sabs as a consultant and the senior stylist.
HIP recently got a chance to chat with Madiha Qaiser about her experience styling the whos who of our industry. Read on to see what she had to say.
Please tell us about yourself and your career so far?
I started my career as an in-house stylist at Ammar Belal. After that, I joined Maram & Aabroo. It was a place where I discovered my passion for makeup and enhanced my skills. From there, I moved to Tariq Amin’s salon as a senior makeup artist for a very brief period of time.
After that, I decided to work independently for some time and did many freelance projects ranging from bridals, fashion shoots, fashion weeks, and films. Currently I’m working at Sabs as consultant and senior stylist.
When did you decide you wanted to become a stylist for films?
I developed an interest for films while I was assisting Maram for Shoaib Mansoor's film Bol. Even though it was a lot of hard work and long hours, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and found working on film sets to be a wonderful experience.
How did you end up styling celebrities and working on films in Pakistan?
Many people found my style to be unique in Pakistan. Although, I usually like to keep makeup looks clean and simple, I feel I offered something new to our market. While I love my signature look; I can also be very experimental and diverse. I think this is the reason several celebrities appreciate my sense of style and makeup and want to try it out for themselves.
What was your first project as a film stylist?
Bachaana was my first independent film project, even though Shah released first.
What were the challenges you face working in Pakistan?
Working on sets and outdoor locations in Pakistan can be very challenging. From the people you work with to the locations you travel to, everything presents its own set of challenges. Being on set can be very physically draining.
Could you please tell us about the styling process in detail? How does it actually starts; from a sketch or a discussion with the celebrity? Do you see the script or character sketch?
I start every project with a mood board, whether it’s a film, a fashion shoot, or any other project. In order to develop the look, the mood board must comprise of lots of research, compilation of reference images, countless discussions with the director and actors, as well as understanding the characters deeply. It’s nearly impossible to design a character’s look without fully understanding the story, script, and individuality of each character. I also like to come up with a number of looks and test them out on the actors. After doing a trial run of all the looks, I select the one that is most appropriate for the actor and the character.
What are the challenges of styling a celebrity for a particular film project?
Often people are particular about the way they do their own makeup and how they would generally like to appear. I believe finding a middle ground can be quite challenging. At the end of the day, you have to make the actor like your style, the director content with the look, and save your reputation in the process.
Keeping a balance between all the parties can be difficult. Luckily, I’ve been blessed to work with people who appreciate my work and are willing to try out the looks I propose. That makes my job a tad bit easier.
Are Pakistani celebrities open to experiment or they are reluctant in changing their looks?
Honestly, some people can be very difficult and not open to new makeup/hair looks or even products. Convincing those people can be really difficult. I mean people find it hard to do anything that isn’t conventional in their eyes. For example, many people still use tv sticks and prefer to have their hair blow dried neatly. With the abundance of styling techniques and products that we have today, we can have a wide variety of looks. Having said that, there are people who are willing to experiment and try on new things: not everyone is the same.
Is the styling process for a film a one-time process or you make changes as the character/film progresses?
The styling process for a film is certainly not a one-time process. Although we usually stick to the main look throughout the film, we usually change a few things around along the way.
Where do you draw inspiration for different looks?
I draw inspiration for anything and everything. I know this sounds cliché, but honestly meeting positive people, exploring the world, being open to new experiences, seeing great work from other people, can all be very inspiring.
Where does Pakistan stand on styling of films with respect to say India or Hollywood?
Our industry is still in the developing phase so it wouldn’t be fair to compare it to Bollywood or Hollywood at this point. At the same time we are highly competitive and I have no doubts that we’ll get to that level sooner or later.
What kind of look have you given to Sanam Saeed in her upcoming film Bachaana?
Sanam is a beautiful person, both inside and out, so creating a look for her wasn’t difficult at all. To be honest, she doesn’t even need a lot of makeup so I chose to stick with loose waves and corrective makeup to simply enhance her natural features.
Tell us a little bit about the wardrobe and make-up tricks you used on her? Were you given any brief about a certain look before the shoot began?
Films are all about team effort. I had a few meetings with Nasir Khan, who is the director of the film regarding the looks of each character long before we started shooting. We decided on five looks for Sanam’s character and after much trial and error, we narrowed it down to two final looks that best suited both her and her character.
What are the key points to keep in mind while styling any celebrity for a particular project?
The key points for me would be the type of project I’m working on, the target audience of the project, the people involved in the project, as well as the environment and circumstances in which the project is taking place.
Tell us about you and your previous experience of working with celebrities in different movies and dramas, especially Shah?
I've done makeup for a lot of celebrities for different events, including red carpets, fashion shoots, fashion weeks, films, dramas, and bridals.
Shah is very dear to me because it is based on a true story. I really appreciated that fact that Adnan wanted to highlight the life of a local athlete that never truly got the recognition he deserved.
Like any other film, I did a lot of research before we started shooting. For Shah, all the focus was on making the characters look as realistic and relatable as possible. Since there were so many scenes that required fake blood, bruises and wounds, it was quite tough to maintain the consistency of the special effects makeup. However, it was equally exciting and enjoyable.
If someone wants to choose this career in Pakistan, how should they go about it?
There is no straight path to this profession. I can only say that this profession demands long hours, creativity, talent, professionalism, and an open mind. If you work hard and work smart, things will surely fall into place. Social media also plays a big role in this day and age, especially in the creative fields. I was blessed to have great mentors that always supported me and gave me solid advice. Following other successful professionals can certainly be a source of guidance for new and upcoming professionals.
Did you receive any professional training? If yes, from where?
I actually have not gotten professional training. I take pride in the fact that I’m pretty much self-taught. I’ve always been passionate about makeup and fields related to art. I started observing Maram Azmat when I used to work with Maram & Aabroo, after that I continuously practiced on my own.
Lastly, tell us about your upcoming projects?
December and January are usually swamped with wedding madness. That means brides, wedding attendees, and attending weddings will more or less occupy the whole season. There are a couple of other films in the pipe line but I can't say much about them at this point. You will just have to wait and watch!