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Kathakali makeup

Detail of Kathakali makeup

Works in Theater

I graduated from the Kerala Kalamandalam, The State Academy of Arts, in India, where I studied makeup and costume design for Kathakali, a 17th century dance-drama and Kutiyattam, the world's oldest continuous theater form from the 10th century. Both theaters tell stories from the major Hindu epics the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. In Kathakali two musicians sing the storyline with the support of two drummers; actors tell the story with facial expressions, hand gestures called mudras [a kind of sign language], and rhythmic dance steps. Since the actors do not speak, to get the maximum dramatic effect, elaborate makeup and costumes are used to enhance the characters.

A major part of the makeup is the chutti, a white collar made of rice paste and paper that is applied from chin to either side of the cheek to form a frame for the actor's face. The colored Kathakali makeup is derived from natural sources and then mixed with coconut oil. There are five different categories of makeup - Pacha, Kathi, Thadi, Kari and Minukku - which are selected based on the nature of the character, from gods and heroes to demons.

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