Among the classical performing arts of Kerala, Thullal is distinct for its simplicity of presentation, wit and humour. Ottanthullal performances are loved and cherished for their wit, presentation and social critique that has resonated with people for centuries. The accompanying mridangam (barrel shaped drum) takes you on an exhilarating journey where one can introspect on the state of the society while chuckling along with the artist. Today, these artists in their colourful attire are the prime attractions at temple festivals.
Ottanthullal is the most popular among the three varieties of Thullal, with the other two being Seethankan and ParayanThullal. Thullal follows the classical principles of Natyasasthra (a treatise on art compiled in the 2nd century B.C.E). Thullal was introduced in the 18th century by the famous Malayalam poet Kunchan Nambiar (1705 - 1770). A legendary satirist himself, his presentation and style resonated deeply with the common man. Witticism and anecdotes from the life of this genius have become part of the lore and legends of God’s Own Country.The most famous among these include the tale of how Nambiar, after being insulted by a Koothu player for falling asleep during his performance, created the art form of Thullal overnight to get back at him and this new art form was wholeheartedly embraced by the masses.