WellBeing

UNCOVERING THE COLOUR

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To a crescendo of cymbals and beating drums, the demon’s facial muscles quiver. His face is painted bright green. Long silver fingernails protrude from his free hand; in the other he brandishes a sword. As far as classic Indian dance drama goes, it doesn’t get any brighter than Kathakali, which sees actors splash on multicoloured makeup and dress in elaborate costumes. They wear long, flowing dresses that push out like lampshades and don rainbow-coloured hats shaped like saucers

I’ve come to Kerala to experience traditions that are hundreds — and in some cases thousands — of years old. I’m intrigued to see how these traditions fit into the contemporary culture of this slender, beautiful state reclining along the western edge of the Arabian Sea.

Kathakali originated here in the 17th century and its popularity seems undiminished today. There is a host of venues in the coastal town of Kochi, Kerala’s commercial hub, and I’ve managed to score a front-row seat for this evening’s performance. The stage is small, just big enough for a drummer and a cymbal player as well as the two dancers who play the roles of demon and princess. The princess is trying to lure the demon into a trap by seducing him — and it seems to be working.

Then, the

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