Suresh Subramaniam, a 20 year of Indian-Chinese parentage from the Ti-Ratana's Children Home, Malaysia has made the home proud by being the first non-chinese to master the ancient Chinese art of Face Changing.
Ti-Ratana is a welfare society founded by Buddhist monk, Chief Rev. K.Dhammaratana in 1994. Suresh is one of the earliest resident of the Children Home. Suresh who is currently a student of 3D Animation in a local college, has keen interest in magic.
Noting Suresh’s keen interest in magic, Ti-Ratana Welfare Society vice-president Tan Thim Huat suggested that he learn the art of face-changing, and got in touch with a Chinese face-changing master from Sichuan, China.
“I went for an interview with Master Men Wei, who happened to be in Malaysia at that time. The interview was necessary for the master to evaluate a person’s potential and interest,” “Master Men agreed to accept me as a student when he saw my potential. The fact that I’m half-Indian made me unique, too.”
Suresh underwent six months of intensive training, during which he learnt the basics of mask-changing – such as walking, posing and body posture – from his master.
“The training was really tough. It called for a lot of initiative and interpretation on my part. There were times when I felt like giving up, but I persevered,” said Suresh, who had to make a daily two-hour trip via public transport to train at a studio in Cheras, KL.
“My caregivers at Ti-Ratana, as well as my mother and sister, gave me a lot of encouragement and support.”
Though each of Master Men’s students had to cough up RM12,000 for a face-changing course, Suresh was given a fee waiver due to his circumstances. He only had to pay for the costume and masks which were imported from China.
“I use nine to 10 masks for each performance. Every mask has its own characteristics and expression. A red mask could represent anger, while a white mask may depict cunning. However, it is up to the artiste to make his own interpretation of each character.”
“Master Men stressed that a face-changer’s poses and ability to interact with the crowd are important,” said Suresh, adding that his martial art and dance skills gave him an edge.
He reveals that his pre-performance routine includes practising proper breathing techniques, meditating, warming-up exercises and not eating heavy meals to enable him to stay focused. He also has to ensure that he is well-hydrated before and after each performance.
Besides regular practice, Suresh frequently observes other mask changers and opera performers in order to develop his skills and ensure that he does not duplicate their movementsSuresh is proud that he is Malaysia’s first Indian face-changing performer, and gets a thrill each time he reveals his face to the audience.
His first public performance was at a Ti-Ratana Welfare Society event in December 2009.
Suresh has since performed at various events in the Klang Valley, and will be taking his show to Johor, Perak and Singapore soon.
“I want to create my own identity by personalising my performances from next year onwards,” said the enterprising young man. “I try to ‘Malaysian-ise’ my performance while staying true to its Chinese roots. I’m toying with the idea of adding modern elements to appeal to the younger crowd.”
“We encourage the children to find their own potential. The society helped to fund Suresh’s training. We hope his efforts will inspire other children at the home to do well in life,” said Tan, noting that Suresh is gaining popularity through word of mouth.
More about Ti-Ratana Welfare Society, visit their official website here