The Concept Of & The Demand In The Art Of Face Makeup (Mukhathezhuth)

Dr. C.P. Unnikrishnan

To begin with the subject, let us try to find answers to few significant questions.

1. What precisely is Aahaaryam ?

‘Artificial’, ‘Not natural’ etc. are the most commonly known meaning of the Sanskrit word ‘Aahaarayam’. It is mentioned in earlier issues, Aahaaryam includes Face makeup, Costumes, Ornaments, Stage props, Weapons etc. Face Makeup, Costumes and Ornaments are the three important items relevant to the styles of classical dances under discussion.

A scene in which White & Amber filters were
White light & Amber Light used from the
Left lower angle of the artist’s Face

2. What is its purpose in the process of Dancing & Acting (Nruttha & Abhinaya) ?

In his 1912 essay “‘Psychical Distance’ as a Factor in Art and Aesthetic Principle”, Edward Bullough expanded this concept of aesthetic engagement to encompass the phenomenon of “distance.” Bullough maintained that this was more than a physical or temporal distance and “That all art requires a Distance-limit beyond which, and a Distance within which only, aesthetic appreciation becomes possible”. Edward Bullough (28 March 1880 – 17 September 1934) was an English aesthetician and scholar of modern languages, who worked at the University of Cambridge.

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In the Bhaaratheeya Naatya styles, especially those which rely heavily on Naatyadharmi (stylization), it is assumed that a ‘Distance’ between performers and audiences must be created within the minds of the audiences. This sort of mental conditioning is most relevant in the dramatic presentations which involve different characters. The reason is that in stylized presentation, the audiences do not expect from such characters not just the familiar mundane shapes, movements or incidents. In the Bharatanaatyam, Mohiniyaattam & Kuchipudi (not those presented as dance-dramas) styles we see today, the performer does not depict a specific character. But, even such a performer must have an identity and aura, different from those of the audiences. That should create in the minds of the audiences an environment different from the mundane one. Apart from this requirement, in many cases, a single performer will have to depict different characters (Pakarnnaattam) in the same attire & face makeup. To meet such requirements, a ‘Distancing’ (Psychical Distancing) becomes necessary.

3. What is a performer’s expected role or involvement in Aahaarya abhinaya ?

To be honest, in general, most of the performing artists are not sufficiently educated or involve themselves in the process of Aahaarya abhinaya which is as important as the other three among the Chathurrvidha abhinaya (fourfold mode of acting). This is especially due to the fact that Face Makeup, Costumes, Ornaments and other items under Aahaarya are handled by a different person who does not become a visual entity on the stage. But, his / her work, as carried by the performer is seen by the audiences; in fact, they see the performer hidden within the Aaahraya.

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At this juncture, it is significant to note that the audiences see and take into their minds the movements of the Aaharya as a performer dances or presents acting. Here, the performer bears an important responsibility. The Makeup artists would have done their role perfectly to justify the figure expected on the stage. But, if the performer is not aware of the art of utilizing them on the stage, the work put in by the Makeup artists become futile. This must not happen. Apart from the fact that it is like insulting the Makeup artists, the performer will not completely succeed in presenting what he /she is expected to. It is applicable to any presentation; be it dancing or presenting a character.

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Many would have noticed that in the stylized art forms like Koodiyaatam, Kathakali etc., drawing the basic lines and applying colours on the face must be done by the stage performers themselves. This has to be studied and practiced; it is a part of the syllabus for stage performers. The Face Makeup artist who does further work has to depend on the pattern provided by the performer; though the Makeup artist can make certain changes if needed. But, as we observe today, among those who do Bharatanaatyam, Mohiniyaattam, Kuchipudi etc., there are very few who do their own Face Makeup (at least in Kerala). Face Makeup is an Art and the one who does it is an Artist of no lesser importance, compared to those who work on the stage during a performance. Once the Makeup Artist knows what the person sitting in front of him/her must look like on the stage, he/she will take care of the rest. Makeup = Making up, to the expected figure by the artist. He/she adds what is not already there and hides what is not to be seen; be it shape, colour, levels or any other needed parameter. One can learn from expert Makeup Artists and try to do it on one’s own face. The performer must know his/her facial structure, type of skin, how to make it ready for applying colours and lines etc. Then, if the performer himself/herself does the Makeup, it would be more effective. It would also require the performer’s full involvement which is an essential part of preparing to go to the stage. A greenroom must be a very pleasant & peaceful area, without any crowd, noise or other unwelcome factors. It is from here, an ordinary human body gets transformed into a “Form’ that should do dancing, acting etc. on the stage. This transformation is a kind of ‘Creation’. Therefore, those inside the greenroom especially the performers must learn to be highly disciplined and behave with due reverence, realizing that they are within a temple of Creation!

Image Courtsey : Pravin Iyyani & SSD, Kalady.