Rani Pink, Tetrachromats and the Gossip of Indian Colours. Part 1.
The other day I was watching the trailer of ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’.
Apart from the stunning visuals, intriguing music and characters, what predominantly caught my attention was the colour palette used in the film. Starting from the title logo, they used yellow (talking in simple language) and shades of it, then blues, browns and reds. Since I am still exploring the Star Wars universe, I am trying to read online the reason behind using this particular colour palette. Probably, I would be able to analyse or understand the usage of the colour yellow better once the movie is out in theatres.
Movies are a great escape from reality. Apart from engaging and entertaining you for those couple of hours, they also teach a few things. Especially for a small town boy who grew up in the 90s in a Telugu state. The students here are more knowledgeable about the films than their academics. It becomes a part of your everyday life there. In the 90’s, before the birth of the digital flex posters, there used to be larger than life size cutouts, sometimes almost
80–100 feet. As a kid it used to fascinate me and I used to wonder how do
they make such paintings in these giant proportions.
I was never taught painting at school. But the best part of my schooling was the lunchtime. Not because of the food but the food for thought I used to get while on my way to home for lunch. And there used to be this godown turned workshop kind of a place where these movie hoardings and cutouts used to be manufactured. These are self-taught artists who paint every square inch with their hands. I used to sit and just watch their hands dancing over the large canvases. They don’t even have sophisticated tools. It’s very raw and organic setup with a thatched roof, scorching 44 degree heat and with no proper lights. They mostly make the canvas with cloth, some paper pulp, which is generated by recycling the wall posters and sometimes even egg yolk.
The empty large cloth, which used to be a minimum of 40 X 20 feet,
slowly gets filled with base colours and then the full picture.
I got addicted to it and would sit for hours after school observing them. It was where I learnt about the colour mix, discovered the grid system on which they used to make 40–100 feet cutouts of the movie stars. Although I am not a big fan of the grid system, I loved their process of making it, which is absolutely different. They soak the jute thread (wider than the canvas frame) in colour powder, hold it stiff on two ends of the frame and then pull it from the middle and leave it. The thread hits the canvas and forms a line on the canvas. This process is repeated horizontally and vertically till a grid is formed. Since it’s a powder it doesn’t leave a permanent mark and is easy to erase.
The deadlines would be totally crazy because they would work the entire night to make sure that it gets delivered for the next day movie release.
One day, after watching them for days, couldn’t control my curiosity and asked one of the artists, “How do you get it right every time? What’s the secret?” He replied, “We just observe the light and shadow.” And he walked away wiping off the paint from his hands on his baniyan. Their simple white clothes would be smeared with the colours they used to paint with. I often wonder why we never see men having as many colour options when it comes to clothes. Women on the other hand, have millions of colour options.
“Show me the one in Rani Pink” my mom said to the saree salesman. It used to be fun when I used to go along with her for shopping because I used to get my favourite drink ‘Goldspot’. I used to get excited whenever the ad used to run on the national channel. I would think that I will also float in those orange air bubbles after having a few sips. The Rani Pink option arrived and
I couldn’t spot the difference between the Pink and this Rani Pink. To add more to my confusion, there are almost 50 shades of the same colour and they almost look all the same unless noticed carefully. This used to happen every time I would go with her.
Apart from the colours, the texture, the pattern, the border design, material etc. are different which I couldn’t understand. There is Pink, Rani Pink, Baby Pink, Tomato Pink, Maroon Pink and it goes on. Their language of colours is quite unique. They would call them referring to vegetable colours or animals or a popular trend. And they would make sure that they could identify the exact shade. It used to be a mystery to me until I found this one interesting article* about colour vision very recently.
Most of the colour genes are on the X chromosome. Since men have only one X chromosome and women have two, men are more likely to have problems with colour vision than women. This fascinated me. And on further expedition on this subject, it revealed another interesting fact about colours.
People see colour with special cells in their eyes called cones. Most people have three types of cones, each of which is triggered by certain wavelengths of light. The cones send signals to the brain, and the brain interprets those signals as blue, or turquoise, or pink, or any of the other colours. Each cone allows the eye to see approximately 100 shades, so all three cones combined result in 100 to the third power, or about 1 million different colours that most people can see.
In 1948, H. L. de Vries was studying the eyes of men who were colour blind. He hypothesized that since colour blindness runs in families, the mothers and daughters of the colour blind men would have four colour cones, not three. They would have the three normal cones, plus the abnormal cone that the men in the family have. De Vries’ idea was that having four cones enabled them to see more colors than most people, and that was why their test results were unusual. He put this idea about four cones at the end of his paper, and didn’t mention it in any of his work after that.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that De Vries’ ideas were rediscovered by John Mollon and Gabriele Jordan, who were studying colour vision in monkeys. Since colour blindness is fairly common in men (9 percent of men are color blind), Mollon and Jordan realized that as many as 12 percent of the women in the world may have four cones. The name given to an individual with four cones is “tetrachromat.” These women would be able to see 100 to the fourth power, or 100 million colours.
For some people, one or more cones don’t activate in the same way — these people have one of several forms of colour confusion or colour blindness. They may have trouble distinguishing between certain colours, for example, red and green. People who have only two colour cones functioning can see approximately 100 to the second power, or 10,000 colours. People who have only one colour cone functioning can see approximately 100 colors. Colour vision is determined by the X chromosome. Men have only one X chromosome, and women have two X chromosomes. This is why more men are colour blind.
Probably most of the Indian women are tetrachromats.
“Sir, left or right?” the Kaali-peeli (Black & Yellow) cab driver asked me. Told him right and played the next song on my playlist.
Yellow from Coldplay.
To be continued…
*Source: 100 MORE Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People
by Susan Weinschenk