Behind a 'masterful' make-up

Behind a 'masterful' make-up

humour

Behind a 'masterful' make-up

During the early 1950s, the Kalamandir School Of Arts, founded and run by the illustrious artiste Aa Na Subbarao, was an important landmark of Gandhi Bazaar, Bengaluru. Among many other art-related activities of this institution, there was an amateur drama troupe called Chitra Artistes — one of the very few famed drama troupes in the city those days, of which I was an active member.

This troupe consisted writers/actors like A S Murthy, Dasharathi Dixit, Navaratna Ram, along with film personalities like director S Ramanathan, and S Shivaram, among others. Around this time, the internationally famed mathematical wizard, Shakuntala Devi, who had just returned from her Europe tour, became a member of our troupe, taking part in many of our ventures.

Once, our troupe was scheduled to stage a popular play at the city Town Hall auditorium, well attended by regular theatre lovers. In that play, Dasharathi Dixit was to play the role of a timid lawyer, with Shakuntala Devi as his aggressive wife. Our regular make-up artiste, Srinivas, had dropped out at the last moment due to a domestic tragedy, and we suddenly found ourselves confronted with the problem of make-up. It was at this juncture that a flash of bravado overpowered me. “Why not I volunteer my services,” I thought, “and fulfill my long-cherished desire of trying my hand at this fascinating art of make-up, besides essaying my own role in the play?”

Imagining myself to be more artistic and therefore able to do a better job than Srinivas, I was secretly thrilled about the godsend. Without a second thought, I offered my services, which were accepted by the desperate team, albeit with a bit of covert trepidation.

Dasharathi Dixit needed extensive make-up since his shining barren head could blind the audience with the reflected rays from the  floodlights. Shakuntala Devi had categorically made it clear that she would not accept a bald-headed husband on the stage. Unfortunately, the only wig available in the make-up kit was too small for the rather extra-large head of my good friend Dixit. As my untrained hands forced the wig on his pate, the rubber inner-cap on which the wig had been attached gave way, exposing a wide gaping slit amid spikes of unruly hair.

To make things worse, Dixit, a popular writer of humorous skits, kept talking incessantly despite my protests, resulting in his eyebrows going out of size and shape, besides a black ring forming around his eyes, making him look like an alien.

As Shakuntala Devi shrieked on seeing Dixit in this avatar, the staging of the play itself seemed to be in jeopardy.

At this stage, it was Dixit himself who came to my rescue. “I am playing the role of the timid husband of Devi,” he argued. “A furrow of uprooted hair on my head and black eyes amply portray the treatment received by a henpecked husband by his aggressive wife! So, let’s get going!”

This timely and witty suggestion appealed to all, and the introduction of Dixit’s character was accordingly made by the anchor. To the relief of every one of us, the play was a runaway success, with Dixit’s weird look making the play hilarious.
With that, it was curtains for my aspiration to be a make-up artiste.

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