Kannan Raajamanickam is better known as “Magical Touch” Kannan by folks in Malaysia. The reason behind this becomes evident if you scroll down his Instagram profile. The 31-year-old professional make-up artist from Malaysia has turned heads for his ability to transform young women into celebrity lookalikes. Kannan, who is a third generation Malaysian Tamil, is a make-up artist who takes up assignments across the globe, from Malaysia to Canada.
The self-taught artist shares that he was pushed almost to the extent of breakdown before he stumbled upon the idea, understanding its full potential only after it was executed. “This lockdown was extremely difficult for me. I was used to doing about 16-20 wedding events per month prior to that. Not being able to work took a toll on me,” he says.
So one day, Kannan invited a friend, Marie Dashani Matthews, to try out a new idea he had in mind. “I had a few meters of cloth that could be used as a davani (half saree) and another piece of cloth for the pavadai (skirt). I thought of recreating just the hair and the clothes worn by actor Shriya Saran in Azhagiya Tamizh Magan. The make-up was my usual style. But I was blown over by the response!” Kannan explains.
Three hours later, the result was a near-perfect lookalike of actor Shriya Saran from the film, dressed in an orange and green half-saree ensemble with her hair parted down the middle and braided with orange flowers.
“I got so much feedback and many of them suggested that I try contouring to match features. For the next look, I was able to do some feature corrections and you can see how that turned out too,” he says.
It was also the first time that Kannan tried contouring and like how he picked up his basic make-up skills, he has perfected this too by figuring out the technique on his own. “I have always been interested in drawing as a child and later, I picked up the art of make-up and grooming from having to help my younger sisters. I have four of them. It was only for fun at first and it later turned out to become my career,” says the self-taught artist.
Kannan, who is also a dancer and a theatre person, has worked with Malaysian government on their Pentarama Jabatan Penerang programme for about six years. “We’d put up stage shows and take it to rural people. To educate them on current events, government programmes etc.,” he explains. This was where Kannan picked up skills to design sets, props, and to perfect make-up mainly for himself but sometimes for his co-stars too.
Kannan as lord Shiva in one of his plays
However, when Kannan’s father fell sick about seven years ago, he was forced to look at options that could bring home money. “I gave up on my dance and that was when I positioned myself as a full-time make-up artist,” he adds.
Things have not always been smooth for Kannan who had to make his way into the profession on his own.
“At first, there was this awkwardness of being a man who was working as a make-up artist. After overcoming the initial shyness, I had the challenge of proving myself. No one would come forward to sponsor my work with clothes and accessories. However, there were a handful of them from the industry who trusted me and extended a helping hand,” Kannan says.
It was around this time, when he was just 24, that Kannan got the opportunity to style actor Trisha for an event. “It was my biggest opportunity and helped me tremendously. I can never forget working with Trisha,” he says with excitement.
Now, seven years into the industry, Kannan has gained a name for himself and is setting up new trends. “While everyone loved Shriya Saran’s look, it was Nayanthara’s look that blew everyone. In fact, I was not sure of it working out at first,” he says.
Kannan was looking for someone with some resemblance to the celebrity. “I had reached out to my friend Usha, who had worked with Nayanthara in the past to lead me to someone who shares her looks. She said her cousin would be suitable for it,” says Kannan.
This time, it was actor Nayanthara from her latest Viswasam. “I should say she has the most unique features and the most unique make-up style. Right from her eye-brows to her nose, all of it is unique. I chose her looks from Viswasam and Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy to try it out with the model,” he shares.
Kannan adds, “It is always very difficult to recreate the star’s natural look. That is why one should go for specific roles that they’ve done.”
Addressing comments that take digs at the heavy use of make-up, Kannan says, “I’ve heard people say that if a star’s look can be recreated with just make-up, they must not look so beautiful in real life. That is just not true. Stars like Nayanthara, Trisha, Shriya and others look naturally beautiful.”
Kannan has also recreated Aishwarya Rai’s look from Devdas. Over the weekend he plans to take make-up to people who have not used it in the past through an initiative called “Semman Salai”.