Stages of strenuous Kathakali make-up in pictures

Sadunam Mohan, I gathered, is a very patient man. He spread out colorful powders on thin papers in front of him and started applying the strokes carefully.



“Everything used in Kathakali make-up is locally available. The white is made from rice flour, the black from soot, and the red from Vermilion. Other colors are made by grinding Manayola, a stone found in the Himalayas, available widely in Kerala at Ayurvedic shops”, said Sadunam. Color like orange is prepared by mixing two colors, red and yellow, with coconut oil as base.





“It takes two hours for the basic make-up and another hour for dressing”, explained Sadunam in between strokes.


It was then time for the second stage of make-up by the talented Chuttikkaran (make-up man). He drew white lines and built ridges using rice paste.



On completion, the dancer looked magnificent. With the costume on, Sadunam no longer looked like he belonged on earth, which, in fact, was the desired effect.



As he performed on stage, in every way he could have been a celestial being like the very character he enacted.


32 thoughts on “Stages of strenuous Kathakali make-up in pictures

    • For me too Priyanka. It was an incredible experience. It took about 2 hours for the make-up session to complete. He was so patient and careful. He spoke with great passion and respect for the art. I loved my time there.

  1. It’s amazing this art form played in the golden glow of oil lamps and in temple backgrounds long before the electricity,cinemas or television not only provided a wholesome multimedia entertainment with its drums, songs and visual splendor but also consoled and inspired its audience to deal with their own lives and its unpredictable twists the right way.

    • Yes Thomas. The artist told me that in those days they used to perform for six to seven hours, an entire night. Apparently they used to enact three puranas and just one was for about 3 hours. These days to suit the convenience of viewers it has been modified. I can imagine the days when this would have been the only form of entertainment.

    • You have given me 8 reasons to like Brisbane and include it in the itinerary, if I ever travel to Australia. Thanks to you! 🙂 And yes, Kathakali is an exquisite and difficult art form from what I have gathered. I am told it takes 6 to 8 years to master the mudras and movements.

  2. Beautiful. Great photos. Thanks for following Humorous Interludes. I am humbled and delighted. I also have a photo blog at: if you are interest in photos. 🙂

      • What camera did you get? Take you time. Get to know the camera and it’s capabilities. Look for online videos for some help if you need it. There are lots of photography videos out there. Good luck. 🙂

  3. Wow..
    Being from Kerala, I am dismayed that I have never thought about the dressing and the make up;
    while I get to watch these performances..!!
    Thanks for the post !! 🙂

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