Next level tattoo artist Vikas Malani, is surely an inspiration to all those in the field of art and culture, trying to eke out a living. In a conversation with One World News, he talks about his inspiration, his work, his passion towards the art and most importantly, his love for his mother who has been a guide in his life.
How many tattoos do you have on your body and what are the stories which lead to them?
I have five tattoos on my body; one on the nape, which represents the sun. As every religion believes in one particular thing, i.e. sun, and for me my religion is my mother, my faith and belief in my mother. And therefore for me, my god is my mother so that is why I have a sun on my nape. I have a nautical star on my right ankle which means how far I travel in my personal and professional life. The star again represents my mother who guides me towards my goal.
Then, I have an infinity band which signifies no beginning, no end to the love that I hold for my mother; then another design which is a tribal flower in the sense that the exterior part is tribal and the interior part is a flower. It means how difficult the life is from outside but the thing inside is very soft. It’s called inner peace! Again, that is my mother. No matter how difficult it is, make sure that you never lose focus, as it will always keep you strong from within.
The last tattoo I got done on my inner left arm says, ‘mi madre es mi dios’ meaning ‘my mother is my god’ in Spanish, and that is my philosophy of life. The next tattoo which I am going to have says, ‘mi cuerpo es el templo de mi Dios’ meaning ‘my body is the temple of my god’ which is my mother. So, all my tattoos are going to connect me with my mother.
You must have started at a time when tattoo art was not taken too seriously, so how did you plan on making it your full-time career?
When I started my career in 1998, I used to do body painting. I never had a mentor at that time, so, I took up to body painting and temporary tattoos. Gradually, as I got more and more into this field, I got introduced to a couple of people. When I used to travel to Pushkar, I got introduced to this female friend of mine. She used to share her designs with me and her knowledge of tattoos and eventually became my mentor. She pushed me and told me that I do such amazing freestyle job, why don’t I just start doing something permanent. She was very assertive and optimistic about me taking my art as a full time career.
Then I talked to my father about it, but he didn’t understand that I own that much confidence and passion for this art. He thought maybe I was taking it as a hobby but then eventually I told them that there was something in me that couldn’t stop me from making it my full time career. Then in 2001 I took up a job at a call centre because it was very difficult for me to buy a tattoo machine. In the day I did temporary tattoos and in the night I worked at the call centre making it twenty hours of work a day. The day I got my machine, I started practicing and eventually I worked hard so I could see these beautiful days.
For you, ‘body is a canvas’. Please comment on that?
For me, ‘body is a canvas’ because as I started my career with body painting, I used to see each and every body coming to me as a canvas because I used to display my art on it. I also remember one of the incidents, it was a fashion show and there were fourteen women walking on the ramp. The way they displayed themselves, there was so much noise in the crowd which made me understand that it was not about the body, it was the art I did on them that was being highly appreciated. This gave me the idea that if you treat your body as a canvas, you can never cheat on your skin. Every tattoo I do, I do it like it is the last tattoo of my life, this way I feel my canvas is complete.
I remember this beautiful artist who created a sculpture, and told God that he could take his life and give life to that piece. Reason being, an artist is only a true artist when he starts loving his own work and gets so lost in it that he feels that art is more important than his life. And that’s what I do to ‘bodycanvas’.
What inspired you to make a career out of this passion of yours?
When, I got my first tattoo done. One of my friends was practicing on me, we used to work together. He was tattooing on me and I planned for a sun because I felt for my mother. My mother always used to tell me that there will be nothing that you will take with you to your grave. And I always used to contradict saying that there was something that I will take with me to my grave. I don’t wear any ornaments or any other thing which I will be carrying to my grave.
Getting a tattoo is a beautiful moment of your life. And, the best thing about it is that nobody can take it away from you. You can lose materialistic things but a tattoo is something emotional and is skin deep. It is like your baby. You pamper it, take care of it, flaunt it, love it and it becomes like an ornament for life on you. You carry it with pride.
What all celebs have you tattooed on? Any experience or story you still remember?
We have done look test tattoos on Anushka Sharma for Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola, Priyanka Chopra for Pyaar Impossible, Aamir Khan for Dhoom 3, Anil Kapoor, Fardeen Khan, Arjun Rampal and many more. We have also done permanent tattoos for Kemar Roach (fast bowler, West Indies), Remo D’Souza, , Alok Nathji, Jackie Shroff’s daughter and wife, Gauri Tonk, MS Dhoni, to name a few. I remember doing the tattoo for Remo when he could not come down to the studio because he just had his second baby, so I visited his house. That was the most amazing moment. He got a dragon on his left shoulder while he was playing with his son, sitting on his lap. Tattooing Aamir Khan was a new experience; he knew everything that was being used on him, moreover, was also giving suggestions.
How has the journey of creating tattoo art been, so far?
It is amazing to see so many wonderful people who have come ahead and taken the initiative to be among India’s best tattoo artists. And I am very happy to see most of the people travelling abroad to learn this art, coming back to India and then practicing it. So, what I used to see in 98’ is different from what I see now in 2014. Tattoo art has now become a multi-million industry. Hence, it is no more just a passion or a hobby, but a career with monetary benefits. Infact, tattoo making is one of the most booming industries today. All I can say is that you take any profession, all you have to do is respect it. It’s the way you do your process. Other people will look at you and see how dedicated you are for your job. They will come to you because you are giving those good vibes.
What do tattoos mean to you? Do different tattoos have a different meaning/significance?
Tattoos speak about, who you are as an individual. It speaks about your past, present and future. It is almost like showing a mirror to the people. Some have hidden stories which they never want to reveal so, they just get inked it on themselves in various languages, not known by many. Of what I have seen, tattoos are mostly based on emotions. And I think when people are sad or frustrated, happy or excited, they throw out their emotions or they inhale their happiness. I see tattoos to be a spark or an adornment. People keep planning for a tattoo for over three years and suddenly, they feel the spark and come to get a tattoo done. While some people are so aggressive, that they hardly give it a thought, they’ll just come and say that they want a tattoo. I generally ask them the reason behind it, but they would say they just want it like that. Such people, regret getting a tattoo done the next day. We understand their emotions therefore, we give something which ten-twenty years down the line, they carry with pride.
For our culture we have to understand that we are not yet that westernized. So, we cannot have a pin-up girl with a bikini tattooed on a female because one day, she will have kids who are going to ask her who is this pin-up girl. I don’t think the cultural values will ever come to that extent where we will have no respect in-between generations. So, I make sure that we take forward our culture with all due respect. People should not just flaunt, but also feel happy and connected to what they have on their body.
Do you have a dream design/art in mind which you would one day want to put up on your canvas?
Being a lefty I am going to get my entire left arm tattooed and since, my art is dedicated to my mother it shall be mine and her story. As everything is done with that arm, I will have all her favourite things on it, all the places she liked, her philosophies, her art, her dream destinations, the colours that she liked, the kind of patterns she used to like, everything. Maybe, not in words but in terms of elements so, it makes one nice story for me and I carry it for the rest of my life. I can even see it on my death bed.
If not a career in tattoo making, what else would Vikas have done?
If not a career in tattoo making, I would have been a pizza delivery boy (laughs). I would have loved to do that job. I find it to be being practically grounded; you just keep going and spreading happiness everywhere. It is fun and I’d like to see people smiling, laughing at the end of the day. Another thing I would have loved is to have a restaurant. There is one thing my mother used to make, it was amazing food! So, I feel if I get a little essence of her in my style of cooking, probably I can also become a good chef. For any kind of business you are catering to customers, the process is very important. What protocols you follow and how perfectly you bring that process to the standard to avoid any mis-management is very necessary. Communication with your people needs to be right. Quality stuff needs to be provided without compromising or cheating on customers. Today it might be a compromise, tomorrow it will backfire.
Photo Courtesy : Sameep Tawakley & Vikas Malani Studio
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