Laxman Picture

Kathakali is the classical dance-drama of the state of Kerala in India. The dance emphasizes expression and gestures (or mudras) over what one might usually think of as dancing. This doesn't mean that it is slow or boring, only different. It could be described as an acquired taste, I suppose.
Most classical dances or performances or ritualistic celebrations in Kerala involve very elaborate make-up, as can be evidenced even in Kathakali. This is usually because the characters they depict are deities or other powerful Hindu mythological personas. I presume this is why they try to always appear so much larger than life.

The performers have an astounding amount of control over various facial muscles -they usually are schooled about this for 8-10 years before they even see an audience. To elaborate, the man in this photograph had autonomous control over each eyelid (meaning he could move the upper eyelid without the lower eyelid moving and vice versa). He could 'vibrate' his chin. Seriously, it looked like someone had placed a small buzzer in his chin and was using a remote control to turn it on and off. He could move his eyes horizontally back and forth at such a frequency you'd swear you were looking at a cartoon on TV. You know, when a cartoon character gets hit on the head and has his eyes rolling like rubber balls or something? Yeah, this guy could do that. Okay, so I'm exaggerating a little about the eye thing, but you get the point.

The drama usually involves stories from the Hindu epics of Mahabaratha and Ramayana. The audience is almost always expected to know the story being performed beforehand.

The man in this photograph depicted Laxman, the brother of Lord Rama (from the Ramayana). The make-up is all obtained from natural materials (flowers, stone and rice paper). Heroes are always green with the rice paper along the side of the jaw. A particular (red) flower is used to dye the eyes red. The effect is temporary and the eyes aren't red because they're irritated.
All characters in the performance (there are usually only 2 to 3) are performed by men. I don't really want to start or participate in a Sexism vs. Tradition debate; I'm just stating the facts.

More about Kathakali here: [link] if anybody is interested in the subject.

More to come soon.
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