Celebrity Tattoo Artist Vikas Malani on Tattooing Myths, John Abraham and His Journey Thus Far
Celebrity Tattoo Artist Vikas Malani on Tattooing Myths, John Abraham and His Journey Thus Far
In this exclusive interview, Malani shares his journey, the challenges of tattooing high-profile clients, and the myths and realities of the tattoo industry.

The visionary founder of BodyCanvas Tattoos, Vikas Malani, discusses how he went from being a student artist to becoming a well-known tattoo artist for A-list clients like John Abraham and Aditi Rao Hydari. He dispels popular misconceptions about tattoos, considers the early difficulties of starting a career in tattooing, and offers insights on working on high-profile projects, such as the popular tattoos for John Abraham in ‘Pathaan.’ Come explore the world of celebrity tattoo artist Vikas Malani with us in this exclusive interview that he had with News18.com.

Excerpts from the interview:

The brand BodyCanvas came into existence in 1998, when tattooing was not considered a career. What inspired you to start the brand, and what was your thought process behind establishing it?

I started to draw when I was in school; drawing, as a subject, has been my stress reliever and happy zone. Therefore, it really helped me psychologically. I realised how colours, patterns, and design excited me. Even drawing a line or a dot is so full of creativity. Drawing turned into passion, and passion turned into tattooing. I chose tattooing as a mainstream way to explore my creativity because clients can travel the world with my artwork on them. This is a sense of commitment & self-expression. Clients’ bodies are our canvas, and here the birth of BodyCanvas begins. We ink their intangible thoughts into tangible reality.

Today, tattooing is a full-fledged career. What hardships did you face back in the early days, and how did you overcome them to help shape the industry in India?

As tattoo artists, we faced many hardships; the biggest of all was the taboo (social stigma). Relatives, friends, and neighbours made fun of and mocked us. Comments and tags like “you are a junkie,” “druggie,” “hippy (Babaji),” and “jobless” were common. People said artists have no career, questioned how we would make money, who would marry us, and believed no bank would give us a loan. They even stated that we’d have to beg for a living and made more traumatising statements. Our friends and family used to say, “Don’t hang out with tattoo artists; they are outlaws and not good people.” Lack of professional tattoo equipment & inks and no proper hygiene and safety standards were also challenges. Till today, there is no law on tattooing in India, and there is no government recognition.

To shape the industry in India, focus on education of new skills & styles in tattooing, using advanced technology machines & better quality inks, a policy to protect yourself and clients from any obligations, collaboration with international tattoo studios and artists, sustainability by encouraging a better client support system, infrastructure upgrade of tattoo studios, and market research for what is new & forecast. This will drive innovation, efficiency, competitiveness and growth across the tattoo industry.

What are some of the most common myths about tattooing and piercing that you would like to bust?

Some of the myths are:

  • Tattoos are painful.
  • Tattoos are permanent & cannot be removed.
  • Piercings can be done with a gunshot.
  • Tattoos and piercings are for rebellious people.
  • Tattoos are unhygienic.
  • Tattoos can cause HIV/AIDS.
  • After tattoos you cannot donate blood.
  • Tattoos can cause cancer.
  • Tattoos are anti social.
  • Tattoo are not for professionals.

You have an impressive list of A-list clients. Are there any challenges to working with high-profile celebrities?

It’s more of a responsibility and less of fame. Every day, we have to maintain high-quality standards, which is a never-ending journey. There is performance pressure and the challenge of managing high-profile clients’ expectations. We also work parallel to European Union standards to ensure our branch in Mumbai functions the same way as London. The standardisation of processes, upgrading processes & products, being consistent, and learning new skills are all part of the challenges. Every client is a challenge to qualify for a better balance.

Tell us in detail about the most talked-about tattoo art you did for John Abraham in “Pathaan.” What was the process and inspiration behind it?

The tattoo shows someone who used to love their country but now stands up against authority or rules they don’t agree with. It’s like he changed from being a patriot to someone who questions and fights against system as wrong. For the first meeting, we had brought quite a few references according to the description that was given to us about John Abraham’s character in the movie. We were pleasantly surprised to see that John’s team had also brought in quite a lot of options. So, all of us joined forces to finalise distinctive designs that haven’t been seen before in a Bollywood movie!

What are the key things one should keep in mind for post-tattoo skincare? Can you outline the essential dos and don’ts?

After care plays a very crucial role; if followed properly, it can give you best results and if avoided, it can lead to embarrassment .

Here it goes:

  • Wash your tattoo gently with soap lather or mild hand wash.
  • Pat and dry only by tissue towel.
  • Apply a super thin layer of Nivea cream.
  • Repeat the process three to four times a day.
  • Avoid going to the gym for one week and swimming for two weeks.
  • Try not to expose your tattoo to direct sunlight for two weeks.
  • Hydrate , drink lots of fluids
  • After six weeks, when the tattoo is fully matured, applying sunscreen and regular moisture will help maintain its quality.

You’ve worked on several Bollywood projects. Can you share some interesting anecdotes or details about your experiences working with Bollywood celebrities?

I have some amusing stories and wonderful experiences working with Bollywood celebrities.: John is one of the most humble actors I have met, working with him felt like working with a friend. He respects artists and creativity. After the movie “Pathan” crossed 1000 crores, he personally visited Bodycanvas to thank the entire team for his tattoo look in the movie. On the first day he came to the studio for the look test, he was well-spoken and proactive about sharing his ideas and views on how the design should look. He shared a great connection with the Bodycanvas team and spent approximately 10 hours at Bodycanvas Bandra.

Aditi Rao Hydari has a cheerful personality. On her birthday, she wanted to give herself a gift in the form of piercings. Her kindness and hospitality are amazing. She offered us breakfast at her residence and also had a warm conversation about her interest in art and paintings.

What advice would you give to someone considering their first tattoo? What should they keep in mind before getting inked?

  • Select a proper tattoo artist, check his or her reviews and art work. Check the hygiene of the artist as well as the studio.
  • Have a proper consultation with the tattoo artist.
  • One of the most common questions that people ask is, “is it painful”. If you aren’t sure how much pain will you be able to bear then go for a small design, like a star and get it on the body part where it is less painful.
  • Check the hygiene of the artist as well as the studio.
  • Give yourself enough space and time before getting inked. It is really important to give thought to what tattoo you want to get, as it is going to stay with you forever, or you are going to regret it a few years later.
  • Follow the aftercare properly as instructed by the tattoo artist.

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