Kathakali, which literally means "story-play," is a well-known form of theatrical dance-drama performed in the south Indian state of Kerala. There is no dialogue in Kathakali. Instead, communication among the characters, and with the audience, is through an intricate language of hand gestures, facial expressions and body movements.

The make-up, or "chutti," is an art form in itself. The colourful faces are the results of hours of painstaking handiwork by expert artists, and are based on a very detailed color-code which is designed to reveal the emotional qualities of the characters. For example, green represents godliness, white represents spirituality, red represents ambition and violence, yellow represents passivity and black represents evil. The basic materials used for the make-up are very crude items like raw amorphous sulphur, indigo, rice paste, lime, coconut oil etc. It can take up to 4-6 hours to prepare a performer’s make-up.

These shots were taken at the Kalatharangini Kathakali School near Cheruthuruthy.

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