Kunchan Nambiar, the drummer, was playing
Mizhavu for Chakyar koothu. It is a solo dance with the artiste
himself singing the verses to the accompaniment of Mridangam and
timing with a refrain repeater singing in the background. Usually
the performance lasts a couple of hours.
One day, against all precedence, he happened to doze off by sheer
inactivity caused by a prolonged talk by the Chakyar after a recital
of poem that needed the rhythmic support.
When the Chakyar abruptly started reciting
another lyric, having had no rhythmic response from the drummer
looked back and found Kunchan Nambiar dozing. He not only woke him
up but also ripped him down by humiliatingly sarcastic comments
and jokes on his person. Nambiar hanged his head in shame and silently
Instead of crying over the incident in self-contempt,
he sat through the whole night, with a vengeance, and wrote a poem
depicting an episode from Mahabharatha in a never-to-fore metric
and rhythmic pattern. He also devised a special kind of dance for
The legend is that he presented it the very
next evening at the same temple where he was humiliated on a different
platform at the same time the Chakyar had begun. By the novelty,
wittiness, and acridity of the programme he attracted all the audiences
that had surrounded Chakyar to his show. It was the birth of a new
art form that he named as "Ottanthullal".
Impressive costume down the waistline and
colourful crown are copied from Kathakali, with slight variations.
Ornaments are made up mainly of tender leaves of coconut and glass