In the blink of an eye

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE -

THE art of face-chang­ing ( bian lian in Chi­nese) is best known for its “blink and you will miss” acts of chang­ing masks or faces in quick suc­ces­sion.

This 300-year-old dra­matic art which orig­i­nated from China’s Sichuan prov­ince, forms an im­por­tant part of the lo­cal opera. The per­form­ers in brightly coloured masks and cos­tumes, change their masks in the blink of an eye, some­times with the aid of props like a fan, um­brella or the cape that is part of their cos­tume.

Like other forms of magic, the per­form­ers do not re­veal the se­crets be­hind the art of bian lian.

Malaysia’s first In­dian facechang­ing per­former S. Suresh said he was sworn to se­crecy to pro­tect the art, to main­tain its mys­tery and magic.

Al­though the se­crets of this art had been pre­vi­ously passed down from one gen­er­a­tion to the next through the male lin­eage, mind­sets have changed over the years.

Nowa­days we have Malaysian fe­male bian lian per­form­ers like Pinky Loo and Candy Chong who have made a name for them­selves.

The dif­fer­ent types of lian pu (Chi­nese opera fa­cial make-up) and colours on each mask re­flect dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics and ex­pres­sions.

A Chi­nese movie en­ti­tled Bian Lian (also known as The King Of Masks) was re­leased more than a decade ago. It told the story of an age­ing street per­former who was look­ing for a male de­scen­dant to learn the rare art, and of the con­flict be­tween his de­sire for an heir and so­ci­etal tra­di­tions.

The movie won nu­mer­ous awards, in­clud­ing Best Ac­tor and Best Di­rec­tor at the 1996 Tokyo In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, the Best For­eign Lan­guage Film at the 1997 Palm Springs In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, and Best For­eign Lan­guage Mo­tion Pic­ture at the 2000 Satel­lite Awards.

Mak­ing a name for him­self: Suresh is the first In­dian face-chang­ing per­former in Malaysia.

A poster for TheKingOf

Masks, the story of an age­ing bian

lian per­former seek­ing to pass on his knowl­edge to the next gen­er­a­tion.

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