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An Ottamthullal performance during a temple festival

Ottamthullal or Ottanthullal (pronounced [oːʈːamt̪uɭːal], Malayalam:ഓട്ടന്‍ തുള്ളല്‍) is a type of performing art from Kerala, south India. The art form was created during the feudal era 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. A 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.

Ottamthullal, over the centuries, has a (mostly) single actor, donning a green make-up and wearing colourful costumes (which once prompted Pt Jawaharlal Nehru to once remark that Ottamthullal 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 storyplay.

The art form still retains its satirical touch, and lends the artiste the freedom to improvise, more so on humour. Its incidental satire makes this art form more popular among the common man. Unlike in the case of Kathakali, the language is pretty Malayalam and the lyrics are set to rhythms that range from simple to rare and complicated.

Kunchan Nambiar's House and its Preservation

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An Ottamthullal performance during a festival at Poornathrayeesa temple in Tripunithura near Kochi

The birth place of Kunchan Nambiar is in a small village named Killikkurussimangalam, 8 km from Ottapalam, a town in Palakkad district. His home, Kalakkathu Bhavanam, is preserved as a memorial and is a museum of Ottamthullal and related art forms. A library named 'Kunchan Memorial Library has archved manuscripts and documents related to performing arts of Kerala.

The home of the legendary Koodiyattam and Chakyar koothu artist and noted Natyashasthra scholar Natyacharya Vidushakaratnam Padma Shri Guru Mani Madhava Chakyar, who was considered as the authority of Abhinaya (acting) is also in the same place.

Ottamthullal is being taught in institutions like Kerala Kalamandalam besides gurus across Kerala, mostly in the northern Travancore and Kuttanad belt where Kunchan Nambiar had spent much of his latter life.

See also


ml:ഓട്ടന്‍ തുള്ളല്‍

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