Details shared by Ramakrishnan A, Palakkad
About ottan thullal
Ottan Thullal is a dance form developed by Kunchan Nambiar, a notable Malayali poet and social critic, of 18th Century. He was born at Killikurissimangalam in Lakkidi in Palakkad district. It was said that while playing the instrument Mizhavu for Chakyar Koothu, Nambiar fell asleep and the Chakyar ridiculed him. Nambiar became upset and he immediately prepared the script of a new art form Ottan Thullal and performed it in the same venue the very next day. The word Thullal literally means “to jump” or “dance”. There are three forms of Thullal, viz., Ottan Thullal, Seethankan Thullal and Parayan Thullal, of which Ottan Thullal is most popular. Ottan Thullal is a satirical art form that reflects the cultural scenario of his time and criticizes the injustices prevailing in the social, political and religious sectors of the society. Several stories from epics are retold and performed as Ottan Thullal. The solo dancer with face painted green, colorful costume and headgear sings the Thullal song. He is supported by one person playing Maddalam (a drum) and another person playing small cymbals. One of these supporting artists, or both, repeats the song while the main performer dances with rhythmic steps.
Thullal is usually performed as a part of temple festivals as well as cultural programs. There is a Kunchan Memorial at Killikurissi Mangalam, the birth place of Kunchan, where the three forms of Thullal are taught free of cost. The Centre conducts Thullal performance on 5th May, which is celebrated as Kunchan Nambiar’s birthday. This Centre located in Lakkidi is at about 30 km from Palakkad town, easily accessible by bus and taxis.
Thullal artists should be well trained and should have sufficient practice to perform the art form.
Unlike the classical art forms like Kathakali, one need not be highly intelligent to enjoy Thullal. Thullal conveys the language of the layman and that is why it is regarded as “poor man’s Kathakali”.