Mitta struggled to get work or assistants to help her for years, though there have been a few supportive directors.

Mitta wearing a black dress and bobbed hair and glasses sits on an orange couch with folded legs, a hand on her smile, and smiles, looking down at the camera
Flix Films Wednesday, July 06, 2022 - 16:45

Around 11 years after applying for it, Mitta Antony has received membership in the Film Employees Federation of Kerala (FEFKA) Make-Up Union. She is the first woman to get it. Back in 2011, when she applied for it, fresh after graduating a course at the Pattanam Rasheed Make-Up Academy in Kochi, Mitta was told that there was no membership for women make-up artists. She was disheartened, because this meant that it would be very difficult to find work in the film industry and get recognition. There were people to give her a hand, help out, but Mitta had struggled much in the past decade and was on the verge of leaving the industry. That's when she got a call from the FEFKA on Monday, telling her she has been accepted.

"It might have to do with a recent report in Mathrubhumi. But I was all set to leave after going through so much. This will be an answer to all that I faced, though I may still need a break," Mitta says.

The Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), which had been very supportive of Mitta through her struggles, put out a post, calling the membership a historic victory. "For the first time in the history of Malayalam cinema, a Make Up woman's application for FEFKA's Make-Up Union membership has been accepted. This make-up card to be received by Mitta Antony, who has worked in over 30 films as an independent make-up artist illustrates the strength of her determination."

Mitta with FEFKA general secretary B Unnikrishnan

The biggest ordeal Mitta faced was in getting assistants. Make-up work for a whole film needs at least two or three people on board as assistants. "But because I did not have a membership at the FEFKA, very few people wanted to work with me. The ones who joined rarely had any respect for me. If I asked something of them, they'd tell me I am not even a FEFKA member (and they would be, being men). They'd insult my work. Most of the time, I would put up with everything, because of my passion for the work. I wouldn't even mind the meagre payments or the poor conditions at work. But at some point, I had enough," she says.

She began asking artists from other cities like Mumbai or Chennai to assist her. "They'd be very professional, have no such ego issues, but they are expensive, and I would need to take a cut from my payment to hire them." Hiring women assistants - who too were not members – did not make it any easier for Mitta, she says, for they would not adjust to the tough working conditions. "Someone would say they can't work under the sun and someone else would say, I don't feel like coming to work today!"

Mitta even secured a membership card from a Mumbai association - CCMAA (Cine Costume And Make Up Artist Association). That didn’t help her get work in Kerala though. Neither did the Supreme Court order in 2014 which struck down the condition that said that women can't work as registered make-up artists.

Mitta works with Nazriya during Koode

But there have been supportive directors. Anjali Menon's Koode brought her the biggest recognition, Mitta says, and adds that she is very thankful to the WCC for their unrelenting support. Mitta's first work was for the critically acclaimed Udalazham, telling the story of a tribal transgender person. Afterward, she worked in around 37 films, many of these small-budget ones. Actor Sajitha Madathil too has been hugely helpful, she says. "Another director who encouraged me a lot is Don Palathara, with whom I worked in 1956, Central Travancore and the upcoming The Family. Earlier, when I told him about quitting, he asked me who would work with him in his next film. He was very happy to hear that I got my membership since this means I will not be going anywhere.”

Mitta with Sajitha Madathil

Mitta’s story may pave the way for more artists to become members. “This is the first victory from years of joint efforts by all female make-up artists and Women in Cinema Collective. May this step pave the way for more women to receive recognition as Make Up Artists through Union cards and find equal opportunities in the Malayalam film industry. Thank you all for the solidarity to the cause,” the WCC wrote.

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