FONDLY KNOWN AS ‘MAKEUP NANI’, the late BN Narayan, one of Bengaluru’s premier theatre makeup artistes and theatre mentors, had four protégés—all of them named Ramakrishna. Of the four, only one, Ramakrishna Kannarpady, stuck firmly with the art, even foraying into acting.
Kannarpady—or ‘Ramki’ if you’ve ever worked with him—stood with ease in the green room of Rangashankara on an evening in late March transforming a middle-aged actor into a much older man in quick brush strokes of clown white. It was several hours before the evening peformance of Naa Tukaram Alla was scheduled to begin and a certain calm penetrated backstage. This was the fourth run of the play at the theatre, and the cast and crew knew it well. Written and directed by S Surendranath, the Kannada comedy revolves around two elderly men as they come to terms with the realities of ageing in the city.
Ramki’s 40 years of experience in converting actors into characters has made him the city’s most loved, and most active theatre makeup artiste—and it’s easy to see why he is so sought after. His work is precise and effortless—and in a theatre milieu which hasn’t yet acquired professional status, Ramki’s fee is nominal. “I need to justify my costs in the work that I do. I ask the group I’m working for to pay me as much as they can, hoping the cost of the material will be covered,” he said in his gentle tone. As a minimum, R100 suffices.