Ottan Thullal is an art form originated in the south Indian state Kerala. The Ottan Thullal comprises of humour, satire and social criticism. Former Indian Prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is supposed to address Ottan Thullal as “Kathakali of poor man”.
Origin of Ottan Thullal (18th century CE)
The origin of Ottan Thullal is connected to the famous humour / satirical Malayalam poet Kunchan Nambiar. Kunchan Nambiar is believed to be been born on May 5, 1705. The legend says he was performing on a drum like instrument ( Mizhavu) during a Chakyrar koothu performance. In between he dozed off. Chakyar who was performing that time ridiculed this in front of live audience. Out of insult and anger Kunchan Nambiar gave birth to a new art form called Ottan Thullal. The humor and the enjoyableness of the programme,new art form attracted all audiences that had surrounded Chakyar. Ottan Thullal had adapted principles from Natyasastra a treatise on art originating in the 2nd century B.C .
History of Ottan Thullal during Colonial era (19th Century CE)
During the British rule in India Ottan Thullal suffered a set back. The social criticism and the freedom / right of the Ottan Thullal artist to criticise even the king made it less acceptable to the British rulers
History of Ottan Thullal during modern times( 20th century CE onwards)
By the time nationalist movements started gaining acceleration, Ottan Thullal found a new patron in the great Malayalam nationalist poet Vallathol Narayana Menon. He along with the royalty Mukunda raja started “Kerala Kalamandalam” for teaching classical art forms in Kerala. In 1933 the Kerala Kalamandalam shifted to a village called Cheruthuruthy. Here classes for studying Ottan Thullal was started. This helped Ottan Thullal to regain its popularity .During 20th century CE Malabar Raman Nair made many contributions to Ottan Thullal. He refined the performance structure of Thullal by incorporating elements of classicism in the four-fold concept of acting; angika, vachika, aharya and satwika.
Photo courtesy: By bobinson – Oh, my brother is coming !, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4514814