From Twinkle Khanna To Farah Khan: Veena Nagda Shares Her Journey As The Bollywood Mehendi Queen
- IWB Post
- January 5, 2018
“I have never said no to any work and I never will. I am what I am because of my work and will always respect it.”
We’ve heard success stories of choreographers, cinematographers, art directors, stuntmen from the Indian Film Industry, today let’s talk about an artist who has been making the filmy wedding ceremonies in Bollywood even more beautiful.
Meet the country’s most sought-after Mehendi artist who holds a record of being the fastest Mehendi artist and is also Bollywood’s Mehendi Queen. Veena Nagda who has been in the business for 38 years is Ambanis’, Dharma Production’s and YRF’s first choice. From starting working just to step out of the house to being country’s most celebrated Mehendi artist, Veena’s journey is a reminder of the basic rule – work hard, respect your work, be humble, and success will follow.
Her bridal clientele off-screen include Twinkle Khanna, Shilpa Shetty, Suzanne Khan, Karisma Kapoor to name few. Her on-screen Bollywood brides are Alia Bhatt, Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Sonali Bendre, Rani Mukherjee, Sonam Kapoor and the list goes on!
I was 16 when I first got into it. It was right after my school.
Did you roll yourself in a class or learn by yourself?
Oh, I learnt it by myself through magazines and available mehendi pictures. I belong to a very simple, middle-class family. We were 5 sisters and 1 brother, and it was difficult to pursue education. My father was a strict man and didn’t allow the girls to step out of the house, so to take up any class or any sort of education was out of the question. And we didn’t have enough money for fees.
Were you always interested in art and creative work?
Not really. I wanted to study further but couldn’t as my father didn’t allow. I got through SSC exam with first division. I had been helping my mother with Kachchhi embroidery that she did at home to earn more money since I was in 8th std. This made me incline towards creativity. Speaking of Mehendi, I applied on friends, family friends, and relatives during festivals and functions. I used the embroidery designs in Mehendi too.
So when did you take this up as a career option? This is generally not the kind of profession that everybody opts for.
I didn’t opt for it, as well. As I said, I wanted to study further and couldn’t because wasn’t allowed to go out and work. In fact, the first job that I did was at a father’s friend’s medical factory. I don’t know how did he convince my father but I agreed in a moment as I wanted to go out of home and work, no matter what. It was an 8-6 job where I was paid 6 Rs/day.
Things just kept happening to me. It was around 1980 when a lady doctor friend of my family had a wedding at her home, and she approached my mother for me to help out with mehendi. That’s when I actually ventured into it professionally.
Destiny we say! So your first client was the doctor aunty! Were you nervous the first time?
Haha. I was more excited than nervous. I took along my friend with me. When we entered, we saw people dressed up so well, and the biggest surprise was to see actress Poonam Dhillon! The leading actress of 80s was right in front of me, and I couldn’t contain my excitement. I applied henna on her hand, and she replied, “Very Good” and asked me to put on another hand as well. So, my first big client was Ms. Poonam Dhillon!
Wow! So did your journey of celebrity’s clientele start right from the beginning?
Umm, no. But it gave me the kick I needed. I remember, I went back home and bragged about meeting Poonam Dhillon and applying Mehendi on her hand. Since then mouth publicity began, and I got clients from nearby colonies.
Was your father supportive of your work, then?
Initially, I hid it from him and didn’t inform him that I had already left the job at his friend’s factory. With time as I started coming back home late, I had to tell him the truth. My mother always supported me though. She convinced my father saying I get paid well. Where I received 6 Rs/day at the factory, I started earning 10 Rs per hand.
How did you extend your clientele further?
It was through people who saw me at weddings. They saw my work and booked me in the wedding itself for a function. With this, I was working all over Mumbai and networking kept happening. It was during a Sippy family wedding where I met big stars like Neetu Singh. I was there booked by Farah Khan, Sanjay Khan’s daughter. The chain then went on to Falguni Pathak’s song ‘Maine Payal Hai Chankayi’ to a wedding at Ambani’s house!
That’s incredible! You also have a very close association with Dharma Productions, tell us about that.
Karan Johar saw my work on Falguni’s song first. After that, his team approached me for K3G for Kareena’s mehendi for the song ‘Bole Chudiyan.’ That’s where our association began and since then have been growing strong.
He has been a great support. He is actually the one who gave me the title ‘Bollywood Mehendi Queen.’ It’s because of him I have lived my dream of traveling. He has suggested me to various other big brands, including YRF.
There are billions of girls in the profession but are not paid much. Do you think the Mehendi artists don’t get the deserved recognition?
It’s not like that. I am what I am because of Mehendi. It has painted my world with bright colors. Every profession requires hardwork and dedication. And when there is lack of dedication, sincerity, and respect towards your work, you don’t succeed.
In Mehendi, you earn 50 with an investment of 10. If worked harder you earn much more. I have girls trained under me who have made their parents exceptionally proud and are doing well for themselves. If you start giving excuses of time, it’s not going to work. You have to make few sacrifices to be somewhere.
It’s simple – If you say no to work, money is not going to come along too!
Which Mehendi style do you prefer the most?
I prefer what my clients prefer the most! These days, I have had a lot of young girls who want traditional designs. One of my favorites is the portrait style.
How do you make a trending style different?
For me, client’s demands matter more than trends. I give suggestions according to the pictures they show me.
Any style that you’ve created yourself and given a name?
It was during Falguni Pathak’s song shoot where I wanted to work on Zardozi design and named it Zardozi itself!
How do you add memories to a Bridal Mehendi?
I try to add good memories by never carrying tensions to work. Mehendi is a sagan day, where everything begins. So, I try to keep the environment light and happy and work with happiness!
And, what was the most unusual story you’ve created with Henna?
There are unusual demands sometimes. The thing is few designs look good on papers but look totally different on hands. The reason is the size of hands. Few designs fit well while few don’t. So, whenever in doubt, me and my team show designs on an alternative hand to show how it actually will look.
Brides love to innovate. So, which are the other trending body parts for Henna, apart from hands, legs, and arms?
The belly is quite on demand! We have few brides who want their husbands’ name near the heart.
That’s interesting! A lot of people have birthmarks, moles or tattoos. How do you make them part of your art?
I try to give the same shape as of the mark or tattoo, so it blends well. If the mark is unavoidable or huge, I skip them.
Any request from Bridezilla?
One bride of mine wanted a Batman design on the hand as her husband loved it.
Who is your favorite Bollywood on/off screen bride?
Oh my god! I can’t name one at all, it’s unfair to choose one. All of them are very dear to me, and each one of them has helped me in the journey.
You’re a big name now and have to travel a lot. So, how do you manage your teams during the seasonal period?
I have about 30 senior girls, 50 juniors and almost always about 100 training under me. Fortunately, I have always had very cooperating assistants who have adjusted to the hectic schedule. My clients have been super understanding too. It’s always a two-way street of understanding and adjustments.
And what about the off-season? Do you have any other hobby?
I am busy with my Mehendi classes during that period. My children have complained a lot about me not being able to give time to them. So when I have time I love to be with them.
How would you describe your journey of 38 years?
It’s been a journey of surprises. I feel amazed when I look back at where I came from. It’s so overwhelming to be a part of the world I only dreamt of. To meet the biggest of celebrities, travel the world, buy a house in South Mumbai, send my children abroad for studies and earn myself a name, all of these look like a dream. I am thankful to everybody who has been a part and supported me. I have got all I need, except for an award! *giggles*
Work hard, respect your work and aim towards your dream. Thank you, Veena for reminding us the basic mantras for success.