Unique make up of Indian classical dance forms | Sunday Observer

Unique make up of Indian classical dance forms

10 September, 2023

Eight Indian classical dance forms have their own and unique type of facial make-up. Among the seven Indian classical dance forms, the South Indian classical dance forms are strong and rich in make-up rather than in other Indian classical dance forms. Bharatha Natyam, Kuchipudi and Kathakali use a lot of makeup.

The facial make-up for Bharatha Natyam and Kuchipudi is almost the same. But the drama based South Indian classical dance form kathakali’s facial make-up is entirely different from that of the other six classical dance forms. Certain Indian classical dances have light and simple facial make-up. Some have heavy and strong make-up. Whether it is a classical or folk dance form, each has its own type of make-up.

For Kathakali, colourful and a variety of facial make-up is used. The selection of different colour make-up is adopted for different characters in Kathakali. Different colours are chosen for diverse characters. For instance, green is selected for Satvica nature and specifically for Lord Krishna. For the anti-heroes both sides of the nose are painted with red and white. For the cruel Rakashatha character, a half moon shape red or white beard is firmly tied around the chin.

To depict forest dwellers and demons, black colour is adopted for the facial make-up which is called Kari. Minnuku is another colour always adopted for certain characters such as messenger, wrestler and charioteers. Different colour pigments are used for diverse characters. These different characters have diverse names. In Kathakali make-up, Chaylam means red, Manayloa means yellow and Mashi means black paste. Natural herbs are often used to prepare the make-up paste and powders.

Unique art

Applying make-up for the dances is a unique art. Each dance has a particular type of make-up. Applying make-up has been developed as a separate and unique branch of study in the modern cultural field. Besides, this is an inborn talent and exceptional skill of the individual make-up artist.

In Bharatha Natyam, a new branch was developed in the latter part of the 20th century. It is called dance drama. Unlike classical Bharatha Natyam, dance drama consists of different characters.

Classical Bharatha Natyam has a standard and a unique type of make-up. But in dance drama, each character has its own nature. `To reveal the different nature of characters, a different variety of facial make-up is used.

For instance, for a god’s character, the make-up is different from that of a demon’s character. In a dance drama, the make-up of Lord Shiva is distinctive as compared to Lord Krishna’s facial make-up. Similarly, the make-up for Rama is entirely different from that of Ravana’s.

The colour shades of the characters also differ from one character to another in dance dramas. For instance, for Lord Krishna and Lord Maha Vishnu, a bluish colour is used. On the other hand, for Lord Shiva, a yellowish colour is often used. For Goddess Kaali, a bluish black colour is used. Meanwhile, for Goddess Luxshmi, a golden yellowish colour is used.

A professional make-up artist needs experience, involvement and personal interest in his chosen profession. Earlier no professional make-up artist was engaged in the performing art field. But with the passage of time, the need for make-up artistes became inevitable.

Today, the role of the make-up artistes is earnestly needed for dancers, cinema actors, teledrama artistes, dance drama artistes and street dance players. The make-up artistes are well trained and engaged in their profession. Each country has a variety of classical dances and folk dances. Each dance has its own selective unique type of make-up.

Commercial products

Earlier, for all the dances, direct herbal products were used. But today, readymade commercial products are freely available in different shades and in different colour combinations in the market. These products are traded under different brand names. And some of these brand products have a longstanding reputation. And such products are popular among the performing artistes.

Facial features of artistes also differ from person to person. Even skin colour differs from one artiste to another. Some dancers are very fair in complexion, others are medium in complexion, while some dancers are dark and some dancers are very dark. Hence selecting a suitable skin colour is a difficult task for make-up artistes. Sometimes two or three different shades are mixed together to select the accurate skin colour of the artistes. Basic foundation make-up for the dancers is commonly known as pancake.

Facial features of the artistes differ from one another. Some have sharp features and other have blunt features. Even the eye shape, eyebrow shape and the size of the eyes are also different from one another. For eye make-up, a variety of eye make-up products are used. Eyetex, eyeliner, eyebrow pencil and different colour eye shadows are used for the purpose. Shaping up the eyes according to the type of the eye is a difficult task and an extraordinary artistic talent for a make-up artiste.

Appropriate lipstick colour should be selected for the artistes according to their skin colour. To outline the lips, the lipstick outliner is used. Even the nose shape also differs from one person to another. At the same time, the make-up for children is quite difficult and different as compared to the grown-up and matured artistes. The shape and the size of the face also differ from one artiste to another. Some have round faces and other have broad faces.

There are narrow faces and long faces. Hence make-up for the eyes, drawing the eyebrows and painting the lips depend on the face type of individual artistes.

To blush up and brighten the face, rouge is often applied by make-up artistes. Sometimes, it is not suitable for all the performing artistes, especially for dark complexioned dancers.

Some modifications can be adopted in the costumes as well as in the hairstyle of the classical dance forms. But such modifications are done in the facial make-up. The job of the make-up artiste is not to put the facial make-up alone. They also decorate the nails with nail polish and paint the palms and foot with red ink.