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Ottan Thullal

Ottamthullal, or Ottanthullal, is a performance art from Kerala, India. This art was founded by Kunjan Nambiar one of the Prachina Kavithrayam in Malayalam. The art form was created during the 18th century by legendary Malayalam poet Kalakkaththu Kunchan Nambiar. The story goes that Nambiar, who was playing the mizhavu for a Chakyar Koothu show, dozed off in the middle of the performance, thus inviting ridicule from the Chakyar. The humiliated Nambiar vowed to come up with an alternative art form to Chakyar Koothu, and conjured up an Ottamthullal show that also made fun of prevalent socio political equations and prejudices of the region.

Ottanthullal, over the centuries, has a (mostly) single actor, donning a green makeup and wearing colorful costumes (which once prompted Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to once remark that Ottanthullal is "poor man's Kathakali") and reciting the Thullal lyrics (dance songs), all the while acting and dancing himself. The art form has of late found practitioners from among women too, and is occasionally staged as a group dance form with each artiste representing a character in the story play.

The story was “Kallyana Sougandhikam” an extract from Mahabharata where Lord Bhima travels to collect a rare flower by name Kallyana Sougandhikam. Seeing his elder brother Hanuman on the way, he was engaged in lengthy conversations as Bhima does not recognize his brother etc. It was the language people heard for the first time in a performance which had none of the unusual intricacies of Sanskrit. People were thrilled to hear the verses in the plain language they use in their day to day life.


 
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Guru Gopinath Natanagramam
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