Kerala Dance Forms
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Ottamthullal: Kerala Dance

Ottamthullal or Ottanthullal 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.

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