Ottamthullal is a traditional dance form from the Indian state of Kerala. It is a satirical solo performance known for its humor, wit, and social commentary. Ottamthullal was created by the renowned poet and performer Kunchan Nambiar in the 18th century, making it a relatively modern addition to Kerala’s traditional art forms.

Key features of Ottamthullal:

  1. Humorous Narrative: Ottamthullal performances involve a solo artist, known as the Ottamthullal performer or “Ottanthullal Vidushakan,” who narrates humorous stories and incidents from mythology, folklore, and contemporary social issues. The narrative is often accompanied by witty and satirical commentary.
  2. Simple Costume: The performer wears a traditional costume that includes a white mundu (dhoti) with a simple upper garment. The face is painted with minimal makeup, and the performer may wear a turban or headgear.
  3. Simple Music and Rhythms: The performance is accompanied by simple music and rhythm, usually provided by a traditional hand-held drum called “mizhavu” or “edakka.”
  4. Lyrical Verses: Ottamthullal is characterized by its rhythmic and rhyming verses, known as “Thullal Paattu,” which are composed by the performer or borrowed from traditional sources. The verses add to the charm of the performance and often convey moral lessons or social messages.
  5. Social Commentary: One of the distinctive aspects of Ottamthullal is its satirical and critical commentary on social and political issues. The performer uses humor and wit to point out the follies and absurdities in society and, in doing so, often brings about awareness and positive change.
  6. Dance Movements: While Ottamthullal is primarily a narrative art form, it also involves dance movements, albeit less intricate than other classical dance forms like Bharatanatyam or Kathakali.
  7. Informal Setting: Ottamthullal is traditionally performed in a simple setting, often in temple premises or village gatherings. The informal atmosphere allows the performer to interact with the audience, making the experience engaging and enjoyable for everyone.

Ottamthullal is considered a folk art form and is well-appreciated for its entertainment value and cultural significance. Over the years, it has adapted to modern themes and continues to evolve, retaining its relevance in contemporary Kerala society. The art form’s ability to use humor and satire to address pertinent issues makes it a cherished part of Kerala’s performing arts tradition.

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