has been the man behind the beautiful faces of many dancers. Hailing from
Watrap near Srivilliputhur, he made a humble beginning as a make-up artist
48 years ago. Today, he is a much sought after make-up man. He has dabbled
in politics and acting too. Sethumadhavan shares his success story with
- Make-up Artiste
did you get into this field?
initially came to Chennai with a desire to act. But I couldn't succeed.
I came into contact with make-up men like Gajapathy and Seetharaman. I
started helping them and slowly learnt the art of make-up. I didn't have
any formal training. I learnt the technique only by observing my seniors.
was your first experience as an independant make-up artist?
was assisting senior make-up men, so I was known in the drama field. Once
Mr.Y G Parthasarathy asked me to do the make-up for him. This was my first
experience as an independant make-up artist. After that, I continued to
be a full time make-up artist. In the 60's, I used to be the make-up artist
for Mr.Y G Parthasarathy's play "Dial Mr.Sanjeevi".
did you enter the dance field as a make-up artist?
first dancer for whom I did make-up was Yamini Krishnamurthy. Later I started
to do make-up for other dancers also. From dancers of yesteryears to dancers
of today, I have done make-up for almost all of them. It's a long list.
there any special make-up artists for dance in olden days?
were make-up artists within the troupe. They used to take care of make-up,
costumes and presentation of the artiste. But the concept of a specialised
make-up artist came after the advent of cinema.
is your idea of make-up?
in Tamil means "Oppanai", which means making the artiste suitable for the
character. 'Opputhal' in Tamil means agreeing, so 'oppanai' means making
the artiste's face agreeable to the character. This is what you call make-up
in English. Make-up is basically of three types, stage make-up, photo make-up
and society make-up. Based on the requirement, make-up is done.
you tell us the difference between stage, photo and society make-up?
make-up is very simple. You apply a foundation, then powder over it, Kohl,
lipstick and finish the make-up. But Stage and Photo make-up are a bit
demanding. Lighting plays a major role. If the lighting is heavy, you can
use heavy make-up and can use shades. But if the lighting is less, you
can use only light make-up. For photos, the cameraman plays an important
role. The angles and distances he chooses influence the nature of make-up.
was make-up done in those days?
was also called "Aridharam" in Tamil. On the day of the performance, if
the performance was in the evening, the artistes used to start preparing
themselves from noon itself. In those days, lighting was confined to petromax
lights only. So turmeric and castor oil was first applied to give a yellow
tint to suit this type of lighting. After sometime, the oil and turmeric
was removed. Then a mixture of zinc white, glycerin and sindhuram was applied.
Zinc white mixed with sindhuram gave a good tone and glycerin gave a good
shine. This make-up used to remain for hours.
do you decide on the type of make-up for an artiste?
the technique is the same. Based on the tone of the skin and the body heat,
we decide on the make-up. When we put our hand on the head of the artist,
we can feel the body temperature. Make-up tends to darken if the body heat
of the artist is high, so we prefer light make-up for such people. The
face will start looking shiny after sometime if the face is oily in nature.
We consider these factors and do the make-up.
the artistes give any suggestions?
times they do. I take it. Sometimes, if I feel that their suggestions might
not be suitable, I tell them so and they accept it. The final result must
be good. That is my desire and that of the artistes too.
there any difference in make-up for different dance forms like Bharatanatyam,
Kuchipudi, Contemporary dance, etc?
technique is the same. Costumes differ according to the style. And so do
the hair styles.
are certain mythological characters like Rama, Krishna and others. People
associate certain features with them. For instance, N T Rama Rao was famous
for his portrayal of Krishna. Is it possible to do make-up for anyone to
portray such mythological characters? Or should a face suit the character
to be played?
person can be made to look like Rama, Krishna or any mythological characters.
As you mentioned, there are certain features associated with them. Rama's
eyes will be like a lotus, there will be a mischievous look in Krishna's
eyes..Such features can be depicted on any person and anyone can look like
Rama or Krishna. In Therukoothu, we see different people do many roles.
Do we have N T Rama Rao everywhere?
an average, how long does it take to complete make-up?
complete the make-up, costume and hair dressing takes 1 to 1 ½ hours.
the initial make-up, touch-up might be needed during a break in the performance.
Is it difficult as the break will be short and within that time, you will
have to do the best?
don't touch-up during breaks. It is a wrong concept. All I do during the
break is to remove the sweat and oil by wiping off with a towel. If there
is a costume change and if hairstyle is to be changed, it takes 7-10 minutes,
so it is not difficult.
you travel outside Chennai?
I get an offer, I do. I have travelled throughout India with Yamini Krishnamurthy.
I have also gone to Singapore and Malaysia with Anita Ratnam and Srinidhi..
is your most busy period? Are you busy throughout the year?
you done make-up for foreign artistes?
have done make-up for foreign artistes who come to India. Once I remember
assisting a Russian ballet troupe visiting India. Foreign students of Nirmala
Ramachandran, Meenakshi Chittaranjan, Kamala and others who perform in
Chennai, come to me for make-up. Of course their skin tone will be different.
Since most of them have large foreheads, I try to Indianise their features.
But even that can be done to a certain extent only.
times, I have work continuously for three days, at other times not. During
the December season in Chennai I get more offers. I adjust my timings and
accept up to 5 offers a day during season.
you tell us about the changes in the field over the years?
have been in this field for 48 years. There have been changes in attitudes
of the artistes. New techniques of make-up have emerged. These days, make-up
has become simple. Artistes apply an oil base and then powder over it.
But I still prefer water base pancake as it merges with the skin. Nowadays,
I find people use poster colour to get the yellow tint. The work of a make-up
artist is getting recognition now. Dance has become one among the other
multifarious activities for most of the performers now. In earlier days,
dancers concentrated more on dance.
you trained anyone?
have trained many people. They have all started on their own. But I don't
want to mention their names. They may not like it. Nowadays I work alone.
frequent make-up affect the skin?
you tell us about the awards and honours that you have received?
have received honours and appreciation. I don't remember the years. Once,
Pakkirisamy Pillai honoured me with the title "Oppanai Ratnam", Sudharani
Ragupathy has honoured me with a certificate in appreciation. Generally,
at the end of performances, I am honoured with mementos. It is a sad thing
that neither the Central Government nor the State Government have recognised
the make-up field. ICCR does not recognise us as artists and we are treated
as technicians. So we do not receive concessions for travel abroad. I wish
the government recognises our field.
It does not affect the skin. The ingredients used for make-up like Sindhuram,
Zinc white are harmless. The white colour used for Thiruman and the red
and yellow used for Srichurnam are all derived from natural products and
these are used in make-up items. So they do not harm the skin.
you prefer foreign products to Indian products?
products are indigenously available. In fact, some Indian dancers living
abroad do not get the shades they want. For some of them, I prepare kajal,
gum, pancake to suit their skin tone and other items.
you tell us some interesting anecdotes from your career?
experience is interesting. I cannot pinpoint a single incident. I consider
doing make-up for Chandrakantha's troupe and Sivakamiyin Sabadham drama
very interesting. I had to do make-up of Naganandhi, a male character in
Sivakamiyin Sabadham, for a female. So I had to cover the lady's long hair.
Also the female role of Sivakami was done by a male. I had to make adjustments
for that. Once, after seeing my make-up skills, Kelucharan Mohapatra expressed
was your most challenging task in your career?
at Peravoorani, the drama "Sivakamiyin Sabadham" was to be staged. I was
there to assist the troupe. The make-up artist did not turn up. The artistes
were in a fix and asked for my help. I had only the foundation, no other
make-up item. So I went to the shop to buy zinc white. There I saw jute
threads and suddenly an idea struck me. I bought the jute threads and converted
them into beard and moustache. They looked like original ones and I was
appreciated for this. I managed to do the make-up for the entire troupe
successfully. This was a challenging task.
is your date of birth and star sign?
was born on 18th July 1934. My star sign is Cancer.
we have your list of favourites?
- All the places in India.
- Nothing in particular.
- Simple food. I take food only once a day. I don't eat during nights.
This habit started when Lalbahadur Shastri introduced Miss a Meal concept
where he requested every citizen to forego a meal once a week.
- I live with colors. I need all of them. So all colors are my favourite.
person indeed! A simple straightforward approach and dedication to work
have made Sethumadhavan a much sought after person in the make-up field.
As a make-up artist, he has raised a wonderful and successful family. He
has two sons and a daughter, all excelling academically. His eldest son
will be pursuing his Doctorate in Nuclear Physics shortly. At 66, Sethumadhavan
continues his profession enthusiastically with success and contentment.
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(044) - 4613597
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