Make-up in Kathakali (Chutti)

Make-up is a highly reckoning factor in Kathakali. Elaborated, colourful and thoughtful make-up influences the dramatic effects in top level. Each colour in make-up denotes each particular quality.

  • Green denotes godliness
  • White denotes spirituality
  • Red denotes turmoil
  • Black denotes evil and
  • Yellow denotes combination of godliness and turmoil.

In other words, each colour represents each character with marked costume and make-up. These five characters are named

  • Pachha
  • Katti
  • Taadi (it has three types – Velupu Thaadi, Chuvappu Thaadi and Karuppu Thaadi.

Reddening of the white portions of eyes of the characters is a salient feature in Kathakali. For this tender seeds of sollanum pubescence are used.



Minukku make-up soothes face. Yellow and red colours mix used for it creates natural skin colour supposedly of Brahmins, Rishis and virtuous women. Some artists prefer to have cream or white colour dots from cheeks to the fore-head in bow shape. Forehead is caste-marked with black colour, while the lips are coloured red. Eyes and eye-lids are lengthened with black greasy collyium. For women characters appropriate touch-ups are given.



Pachha (green) facial make-up is symbolic to gods like Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata, Krishna etc. Smooth deep green base is given in front portion of the face. Over it, from centre of both the chin to the lower jaw, white rice paste curves known as Chuttis are given. Lips are made red, while eyes and eye-lashes are made black. Upper portion of the forehead is covered with a red ribbon attached the headgear.



This is a complicated and meticulous make-up. Katti in local language is knife. Katti make-up resembles full bent knifes. Katti characters are evil forces or fierce characters or demon characters. Ravana, Keechaka, Dussassana and the like fall in this category.

The facial make-up begins with green colour base. Red is applied on the sides of the nose and stretches it to the forehead above eye-brows to look like an upturned moustache. The border lines of the red are in white. From middle o the cheeks a Chutti is drawn along the jaw-bones. Two Chuttipuvus (flower-like white knobs) are created on the face. Two protruded canine teeth over lover lips on either end of the mouth are shown for demonic characters.


Taadi or beard is created for both the characters – godly and demonic. For character-wise differentiation there are three colours of Taadi – white, red and black. For Taadi make-ups there shall be no white Chuttis.



White Taadi make-up is for characters like Hanuman (monkey god) and the like. This make-up consists of white beard and a fur coat. Black ointment is applied on lips and upper half of the face. A white rosette with a red dot within is made in the middle of the chin and lower part of the lip and up-to the chin is red coloured. Thin decorative coating of Chutti covers the black end portion of the face and meets the Chuttinata (hem of head dress). A white pattern is developed from green painted base of the nose to lead to either side of the cheeks by encircling the red spots. Two oval shaped red spots – one each on forehead and nose tip – complete the White Taadi.



Red Taadi make-up is for mild evil characters like Sugriva, Baali etc. In this make-up the face is coloured red, while chin, lips and around the eyes black lines are drawn. Lips coloured black. To add ferocious look to the fiery red eyes, two bristled white rows are drawn from the upper lip to the black lines around the eyes. This separates the black portion from the red portion of the face. On the forehead and nose tip Chuttipuvus (flower-like white knobs) in larger size than for any other characters are also shown.



Black Taadi is for the characters like Kaali, Kaattalan (hunter), robber chieftains, brigands etc. This make-up is with black beard and black coat. The face is coloured black. White lines in oval shape are drawn around the eyes with red colour in between the lines. White bristles are placed on the ridges, while lips are coloured red. Nose tip bears a Chuttipuvu of normal size.



Kari (black) make-up is for female evil characters like Soorpanaka and Simhika. Faces are blackened and a red crescent is created in centre-cheeks. Different from other characters, a pair of Damshtraas (protruding teeth) will be there.



The intricate make-up of Kathakali consumes more than three hours. An expert’s service is a must.

The performer lies flat with face up on floor in a mat. An expert puts the seal of his talent on the face with a thin rod. After the face work is over, the performer wears costume. He ties around 30 to 40 pieces of short cloth around the waist aided by a long cloth twisted rope. This is for giving the skirt an oval shape. This over, he wears well-starched and pleated skirt followed by a jacket. Wearing of ornaments of beads, armlets, cupped mirrors etc follows. Wearing and fixing of headgear which is large in size is the next step. For this a helper’s service is a must. Finally, the anklet bells are tied.

Women performer wears silver paijaeb (a variety of ornament) before tying the bells. Male performer ties a small woolen cloth above the anklet and ties bells fixed on a leather pad below the knee.

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