Cochin one of most historical cities on the Indian coast, once a major hub on the spice trade route, is known as the “Queen of the Arabian Sea”. Here one can witness the arduous preparations of actors performing KATHAKALI, an age-old art, a type of folk theatre that integrates religious scriptures, Hindu rituals and various dance forms prevalent in the wider Kerala region. Mythology provides the themes and inspiration. Talent and long years of intensive training provide the masterful performers.

But the greatest ordeal before coming up on stage seems to be the make-up, which goes through various stages and lasts for several hours depending on the role and the costume. All ingredients are perfectly natural: different types of earth, stones and plants ground into powder. The actors take an active part in the process and they apply the basic layers themselves. But then, as things get more complicated, a make-up expert comes to “draw” different features that the audience can decode to identify different characters. Finally, more assistance in needed to help artists put on their elaborate costumes.

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