Make-up of Kathakali


Make-up of Kathakali

The make-up of Kathakali character is peculiarily native to the Kerala folk-art. In folk theatrical varieties, huge marks and make-ups were as much prevalent during the historic span of time. Elaborate make- up heightens dramatic effects. Colour symbolism reflect certain categories of emotions and gunas. The green colour represents Saattvika reveals godliness, white represents spirituality. Red represents Rajasic reveals violence. Black represents Tamasic reveals evil. Yellow represents the combined character of Saatvika and Rajasic. Thus Kathakali characters are grouped into five major role-types, each having a specific make-up and costume. These role types are Minukku, Paccha, Katti,taadi (has three varieties viz. Velupputaadi, Chuvannataadi and Karupputtadi) and Kari.

Minukku is the polished variety of facial make-up consisting in smoothening the actor’s face with a coating of a mixture of yellow and red pigments. The composition obtains ‘a self’ (or natural skin) complexion colour. It reflects the characters usually found in Brahmins, Rishis and Virtuous women. The eyes and eye-lashes are painted and contours elongated with the black unguent and greasy collyrium. Sometimes the face is decorated with white or cream colour dots, running from the cheeks to the fore-head in a bow-shape. The lips are reddened and the forehead is decorated with a caste mark. This colour scheme serves to give a symbolic glow of piety to a devotee character. Women role-types are given delicate touches of the make-up.

Paccha or predominantly deep green face role- types, are Gods, celebrated mythological heroes, and virtuous personages, symbolising inner refinement poise, heroism and moral excellence. This include heroes of a play and noble characters, Indra, Krishna, Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, Satrugnan, Harischandra and Nala. The front part of their faces is given smooth deep green base on which chuttis (white rice-paste curves) run from the centre of the chin,covering the lower jaw, to either side of the face. The eyes and the eye-lashes are painted black and the lips bright red. It assumes the shape of a broad-blade saber or of a sweeping curve of a bow. The forehead, above the bow-tie shaped painted portion, is covered by a red ribbon of the gilded head gear.

As compared to paccha, the make-up of Katti role-types is complicated. This term literally means the knife, because in its make-up the shapes of colour positions resemble sharply bent daggers. Evil, demoniac and fierce characters standing against the hero of a play. Pratinayakaas such as Asuras (the enemies of the God’s) ambitious and arrogant Raavana, Keechaka, Kamsa and Dussaasana are distinctively treated with this make-up. Their faces are given a foundation with green colour, the sides of their noses are painted in red. The red paint round the nose rises up to the forehead above the eye-brows. It is like a patch, an upturned moustache, covering the upper jaw. Its border lines are treated in white. On the green base of the rest of the face, a chutti runs along the jaw-bones from the middle of the cheek. Two white knobs, called chuttippuvus, are placed on the face. These vary in size with the degree of the fearsome appearance of some demoniac characters like Raavana and Dussaasana, two long protruding canine teeth(called dhamshtras)are perched on either side of the mouth. These drop over the lower lips. Katti make-up characters stand in a singular position.

taadi (Beard)
Those who have the taadi make-up are again, good godly and evil-demoniac. To differentiate one from the other, three taadi make-ups are in vogue: Veluppu taadi (white beard), Chuvanna taadi (red beard) and Karuppu taadi (black beard) In these make-ups white chutti is not planted on the face.

Veluppu taadi
It consists of a white beard and a fur coat. It is a realistic make-up for characters like Hanumaan, the son of God Vaayu, and other monkey sages and warriors. The upper half of the face-the neither part of the eyes -and lips are treated with a black ointment. The chin at the middle is decorated with a white rosette, bearing a red dot within. Red paint is applied to the lower part of the lower lip, up to the chin. A thin coating of chutti decoratively encloses the black-end part of the face and meets the chuttinata – the hem of the head dress. Another white pattern develops on either side of the cheeks and circling the red spots, starting from the base of the green painted nose. On the tip of the nose and the forehead two oval-shaped spots are given in red.

Chuvanna taadi
This make-up is given to hideous characters. The face is painted red, with black contour lines drawn round the eyes, lips and chin. This adds to the ferocity of less evil characters like Baali, Sugriiva, Kaalakeya and Dussaasana. The eye-brows and lashes are not elongated, no chutti is applied to the Chuvanna taadi. The face is dubbed in red and treated with black lines. Around the eyes, almost a square patch of deep black colour is provided to give to the eyes a fiendish look of a evil designer. Lips painted in black, are given a hilly curve to give the role type a lucid image of a beastly character. Running from the upper lip are two white paste bristled rows throwing the black patch round the eyes in bold relief and adding ferocity to the fiery red eyes, and demarcating the black portion from the remaining nether part of the face is red. Chuttippuvus (white blobs) on the tip of the nose and the fore-head are bigger in size than those put on by kathi characters. It is the most impressive of all make-ups in Kathakali.

Karuppu taadi
The third type of bearded characters make-up is with a black beard and coat. These characters include Kali, Kaattaalan (hunter), brigands and robber chieftains. In their make-up, the face is first coated with black unguent. The eyes are bracketed within oval-shaped white border lines, the area between two such lines being painted in red. Small white bristles adorn the ridges. Lips are in red. The tip of the nose bears a chuttippuuvu.

This make-up reveals the vile and evil characters, such as Suurpanakha and Simhika. Their faces are painted in black and the cheeks have a red crescent in the middle. A pair of damshtraas are provided. Shiva in the role of Kiraata (hunter) is also given this type of the make-up.

A remarkable feature of the Kathakali make-up is the reddening of the white of the eyes of all characters by putting in a few young seeds of chunda puuv (sollanum pubescence) crimson eyes stand in contrast to the colour scheme of the face. The practice is usually followed in pacha and minukku faces.

Make-up in the ‘Green room’
Kathakali make-up is an elaborate process lasting for over three hours. It helps in giving a super human look to the actors. Whether it is a man’s make-up or the woman’s, the work is conducted by a make-up expert. Paints used in Kathakali make-up are freshly prepared and applied to ensure correctness of rhythmic curves and precision.

The make-up of the male characters other than saints is tedious. The role-type lies flat on a matted floor and the expert starts drawing ‘the designs’ on the face with a thin rod. The face part being complete, the role type gives the finishing touches himself. Thereafter he stands up for putting on the costume. The skirt is a well starched and pressed into-frills garments. But before the skirt is put on, the actor ties 20 to 40 pieces of short cloth round his waist by the help of a long cloth twisted rope in order to give the skirt an oval shape. He then puts on the jacket, etc. The finishing touches to the costume are given by the costume attendant. The actor is profusely ornamented with garlands of beads, armlets, cupped mirrors etc. Fully decorated , the actor gives the last minute touches to his make-up with the help of the cupped mirror. His head-dresses are huge and often unwidely .These are tied by an attendant.
The last part of the costuming is the tying up of the anklet bells. Women fancy to have the silver paijaebs (an ornament) and then tie the bells. In the case of male characters a decorative woolen is tied immediately above the anklet and the bells fixed on a leather pad or tied right below the knee.

Kathakali make-up traditions today widely differs from what it was in the seventeenth century.

Training to the Kathakali dancers
An intensive dance training is needed to make the body flexible and supple in order to respond to unusual forms weaved in the course of dancing.

To achieve fluidity, a Kathakali pupil undergoes extensive and vigorous training from an early age. A complete alteration in the behavior of the body is effected. Massages and oil-baths are an essential aid to awaken muscles, joints and nerves and to control their behavior.

Between the age of 11 and 14 years the pupil goes to an Aasaan, the teacher of a Kalari (a kind of gymnasium) and offers to him daanam (a present) either in cash or in kind clothes and with his guru-diksha (benediction) he enrolls himself for training.

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