“Nokada nammude maarge kidakunna markada nee onnu maari kiidasheda”.It means “You little monkey, don’t just lie down there and block my way. Find a better place to lie down”. The dialogue is by Bheema(one of the pandavas-Mahabharata) to Hanuman, his big brother(disguised as a monkey).This is one of the most hilarious moments in the whole of Mahabharata and that too from one of the most beautiful portion of the epic, that is,”kalyanasougandhikam” . The dialogue may be the most humorous one out of many that you can enjoy during an Ottan Thullal performance.
Ottan Thullal was designed by the 18th century master poet Kunchan Nambiar. There is a story behind the origin of this art form .Kunchan Nambiar was a Mizhavu(an instrument) player for Chakyar Koothu(a kind of art form). So, one day when the performance was going on, Nambiar accidentally dozed off in between. Seeing this, the chakyar(the performer) made fun of him(insulted in a way) in front of the crowd. Nambiar felt so humiliated that he pledged to everyone present there that he would come up with an alternative to Chakyar Koothu. That was the origin of a highly entertaining, simple and at the same time meaningful stage art- Ottan Thullal. It was created for common people who were not able to understand the tough Sanskrit language used in Kadhakali and other art forms. Nambiar purposefully crafted the stories and the dialogues to ridicule the arrogant landlords and openly criticize some senseless social norms and religious prejudices that existed during that time.
Even though I am a malayali (Keralite), I have only seen live Ottan Thullal performances thrice. I saw two live performances when I was too young and couldn’t really understand the humor in this art form. But after a few years on 18th august 2012, I went to watch an Ottan thullal performance. This time I didn’t go there to enjoy the art itself, but to capture some of the priced moments of the performance. So, on that Saturday I reached the place and watched the performance (it was brilliant!) and laughed a lot. I congratulated the performer like many others. Then I came back home and wrote a few words. If something makes me write, it must have made a deep impression in my mind. Otherwise I won`t write about it because I am not a good writer, that is, I can`t write about all the interesting things that happens in my life . The performance made me realize that there is a lot more for me to know about my home, my God`s Own Country. Ottan Thullal was in a way a revelation and a beginning.