India | Kerala

Kathakali Costume

Kathakali, a traditional dance-form of Kerala, is renowned all over the world for its beauty and sophistication. The word ‘Kathakali’ literally means ‘story-play’ referring to the depiction of the scenes from Indian mythology. The makeup is elaborate while costumes are large and heavy, decorated with beads.

Kathakali comprises of the ‘sathwika’ (hero), ‘kathi’ (villain), ‘minukku’ (females), and ‘thatti.’ Each character is identified with a particular type of costume and makeup.

The male character dons a long white bulging skirt, a full-sleeved jacket and a typical headgear. A white cloth rests over the shoulders. The hero wears a jacket colored purple, blue or yellow. The female character wears a red jacket along with a white saree. The forehead is veiled with a long scarf, which rests over the head. Both the male and female characters wear long flowing black hair.

The makeup process takes up to six to eight hours. It requires a great deal of expertise and lots of patience. Usually for the performance supposed to take place in the night, the makeup starts in the afternoon and completes by evening. The dancer lies on his back, while the makeup artist does his work on the dancer’s face.

Each kind of character in Kathakali dons a different type of makeup. The ‘minukku’ character uses red and yellow colors. The ‘satvik’ character uses green color on the face. ‘Chutti’, a rim made from rice flour, extends from the lower jaws to the forehead. The eye and eyelashes are painted black, while the lips red. The makeup for the ‘katti’ character features a more detailed work consisting of red and green color. The ‘chutti’ extends from the nose to the forehead.

Some characters sport a ‘tadi’ (beard). A character with ‘velapu tadi’ (white beard) is colored black on the face. The ‘chutti’ extends from the nose to the eyes. This character dons a hairy coat. A character with ‘chokkanna tadi’ (red beard) wears a red coat. The upper half of the face is black while the lower is red. The ‘karuppa tadi’ (black beard) character wears a black coat.

Some characters portraying female demons sport the ‘kari’ makeup. In this makeup, the face is painted black. These characters have long teeth and protruding breasts.

Updated on 23rd February, 2016


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