These tattoos (left) on actress Regina Cassandra in the Telugu movie ‘Awe’ were Mo Naga’s (right) contributions to the 66th National Film Awards 2019 for Best Make-up Credit: Facebook

Guwahati: Moranngam Khaling, popularly known as ‘Mo Naga’, has once again made the region proud after his creations were used by the team led by Ranjith who bagged the prestigious 66th National Film Awards in the ‘Best Makeup’ category this year. The awards ceremony was held in New Delhi on August 9.

The 33-year-old neo-Naga style pioneer’s creations found a place on actress Regina Cassandra in the 2018 Telugu psychological thriller film Awe. The movie stars Kajal Aggarwal as the protagonist with Cassandra, Nithya Menen, Eesha Rebba, Srinivas Avasarala, Priyadarshi Pullikonda and Murali Sharma in supporting roles.

The film deals with psychological issues and social problems like child abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse, and homosexuality. At the National Film Awards, the film also won the award for ‘Best Special Effects’.

Being in the business for more than 15 years, Mo Naga is well versed in his art form. A fashion designing graduate from the prestigious National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) Hyderabad and a self-taught tattoo artist, he has been in the forefront of upholding the dying tribal tattoo art from the Northeast region.

“It was my friend cum junior from NIFT, Krishna Santhi, who contacted me. She is the stylist of the movie,” says Mo Naga, when asked about how he came to be a part of the creative team of Awe. “It was a last-minute decision. I am very picky by character but when I saw the concept of the movie, I was instantly attracted to it,” Mo Naga told EastMojo over phone.

Manipur tattoo artist Mo Naga’s creations used on actress Regina Cassandra in Telugu movie ‘Awe’

“Normally, in many Indian movies, people tend to use stickers or stencils. However, in this movie, I drew each and every tattoo by my own hands. This complex character has a lot of personalities and needs much detailing to accentuate her different characters,” Mo Naga talked about the tattoos used on Cassandra in the movie.

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“When people come to you without any specification for their tattoos but just want to be tattooed by the famous Mo what do you do? Well I usually do an intense consulting session with those clients to make them understand the meaning behind the traditional Naga symbols. I straightaway draw the design on the body but sometimes they come to me with their predetermined design. I only work by appointments so I have only clients who are specific to get tattooed by me,” Mo Naga added.

The tattoo artist has spent considerable amount of time with the headhunter tribes of Nagaland learning their designs which would majorly consist of geometric designs, dots, lines and spots.

Manipur tattoo artist Mo Naga in Laluri village of Nagaland’s Phek district for research work on Naga tattoos

How has been his experience in this industry so far? “The journey though great has been slow one as tattooing has just received the limelight in the last decade. However, even I am growing along with it and in the process I am promoting the Naga tattoo culture through thorough research,” he explained.

Mo Naga is an expert in digital paintings and paintings as well and he has recently collaborated with Asian Paints. He was also the one who gave Indian boxer from Manipur MC Mary Kom her first maiden tattoo.

Indian boxer from Manipur MC Mary Kom (left) with tattoo artist Mo Naga in New Delhi 

Within a year into professional tattooing, Mo Naga had another feather in his cap when Lee Jeans promoted him as India’s ‘Best Tattoo Artist’ in 2009. He has even got offers from UV Creations and is now working on a movie starring Priya Prakash Varrier. He is currently working in Godna Gram: The Tattoo Village based in Delhi.

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