Role of makeup in Indian classical dances | Sunday Observer

Role of makeup in Indian classical dances

4 December, 2022

Seven Indian classical dance forms have their own and unique type of facial makeup.

Among the seven Indian classical dance forms, the South Indian classical dance forms are strong and rich in makeup rather than that of other Indian classical dance forms.

Bharatha Natyam, Kuchipudi, and Kathakali use abundant makeup. The facial makeup for Bharatha Natyam and Kuchipudi are almost the same. But the dramatic based South Indian classical dance form Kathakali’s facial makeup is entirely different from that of the other six classical dance forms.

Certain Indian classical dances have very light and simple facial makeup. However, some have heavy and strong makeup. But whatever it is, either if it is a classical dance form or if it is folk dance form, each selective dance form has its own type of makeup. Each dance form has its own unique and identical makeup.

For Kathakali, colourful and a variety of facial make up is used. Selection of different colours of make-up is adopted for different characters in Kathakali. Different colours are chosen for different characters. For instance, green colour is selected for Satvica Nature, and specifically for Lord Krishna.

For antihero characters both sides of the nose are painted red and white. For cruel Rakashatha character, a half moon shaped red colour or white colour beard is firmly and securely tidied around the chin.

To display the forest dwellers and demons black colour is adopted for the facial make up which is called Kari.

Colour pigments

Minnuku is another colour, always adopted for certain selective characters like messenger, wrestler, and charioteer. Different colour pigments are used for different characters. These different characters are called by different names. In Kathakali make up, Chaylam means red colour, Manayloa means Yellow colour, and Mashi means black paste. Natural herbs and herbal factors are often used to prepare these makeup paste and powders.

Applying makeup for dances is a unique art; each dance has a particular type of makeup. Applying makeup has developed a separate and unique branch of study, in the modern cultural field. Besides these this is a separate inborn talent and exceptional skill of the individual makeup artist.

Dance drama

Within Bharatha Natyam a new branch developed in the later part of 20th century. This branch is called dance drama. Unlike Classical Bharatha Natyam, dance drama consist of different characters. Classical Bharatha Natyam has a standard and unique type of makeup. But in dance dramas in Bharatha Natyam each character has its own nature.

To reveal the different nature of characters’ different variety of facial makeup is needed. For instance, for a God’s character the makeup is different from a demon’s character. In a dance drama the makeup of Lord Shiva is a distinctive makeup, as compared to Lord Krishna’s facial make up. Similarly, for instance the makeup for Rama is entirely different from that of Ravana’s.

The colour shades of the characters also differ from one character, to another character, in dance dramas. For instance, for Lord Krishna, and Lord Maha Vishnu, bluish colour is adopted. And on the other hand for Lord Siva yellowish colour is often adopted. For Goddess Kali, bluish black colour is adopted meanwhile for Goddess Luxshmi golden yellowish colour is adopted.

A professional makeup artist needs good experience, involvement, and personal interest in his chosen profession. Earlier no professional makeup artist was engaged in the performing arts field. But with the passage of time, the need for makeup artistes became inevitable. Today makeup artistes are earnestly needed to make up the dancers, cinema actors, tele drama artistes, dance drama artistes, cinema actors, and street dance players. Today these makeup artists are well trained, and engaged in this profession.

Every country has a variety of classical dances, and folk dances. Each dance has its own selective unique type of makeup. 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, at the market. These products are traded under different brand names. And some of these brand products have a long standing reputation. And such products are very much popular among the performing artistes.

Facial features of the artistes also differ from one another. Even skin colour also differs from one artiste to another. Some dancers are very fair in complexion, some dancers are medium in complexion, and some dancers are dark, and some dancers are very dark.

Hence selecting suitable skin colour is a very difficult task for a makeup artist. Sometimes two or three different shades are mixed together to select the accurate skin colour of the artistes. Basic foundation makeup for the dancers is commonly known as pancake.

Facial features of the artistes differ from one another. Some have sharp features, and some have blunt features. Even the eye shape, eyebrow shape, and the size of the eyes are also entirely different from one and another. For eye makeup, a variety of eye makeup products are needed. Eyetex, eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, and different colour eye shadows are needed for the eye makeup alone.

Shaping up the eyes according to the type of the eye is really a very difficult task and extraordinary artistic talent for a makeup artist.

Appropriate lipstick colour should be selected to the artistes according to their skin colour. To outline the lips, the lipstick outliner is used. Even the nose shape also differs from one individual, to another. At the same time, the makeup for the small children is quite difficult, and different as compared to the grownup and matured artistes.

The shape and the size of the face also differ from one artiste to another. Some have round face, some have broad faces, some have narrow faces, and some have long faces. Hence makeup for the eyes, drawing the eye brows, and painting the lips, totally depends on the face type of the individuals.

To blush up and brighten the face rouge is often applied by the makeup artists. But sometimes it is not suitable for all performing artistes, especially for dark complexioned dancers. Anyhow some modification could be adopted in the costumes as well as in the hair style of the classical dance forms. But such modification is not certainly in the facial makeup. The job of the makeup artists is not to put the facial make up alone, but they also decorate the nails with nail polish, - and paint the palms and feet with red ink.