Four types of Abhinaya combined in Tullal – Angika, Vachika, Aaharya and Satwika.
Vachika is most important.
Kunchan Nambiar, who is supposed to be the originator of Ottan Tullal, wrote the lines of the poems so that the performer can sing and perform simultaneously. As for stories based on Ramayana, Kunchan Nambiar wrote only few stories.
There are three types of Tullal- Ottan, Seethankan and Parayan
The Tullal stories written by Kunchan Nambiar based on Ramayana are:
Ahalyamoksham : Bala Kandam
Sita Swayamvaram : Bala Kandam
Ravanodbhavam : Uttara Kandam
Karthaveeryavijayam: Uttara Kandam
Bali Vijayam : Uttara Kandam
Bali Udbhavam : Uttara Kandam
Kumbhakarna Vadham: Yuddha Kandam
Kodungallur Kochunni Thampuran wrote eight Tullal poems.
Samudra Langhanam : Seethankan Tullal
Torana Yuddham I & II : Seethankan Tullal
Seetha Sandarsanam : Seethankan Tullal
Lanka Dahanam : Ottan Tullal
Sreerama Sandesam : Seethankan Tullal
Choodamani Pradanam : Seethankan Tullal
Tullal has many Bhagavatha and Mahabharata based stories, but few Ramayana based stories.
Later in Kalamandalam, a Tullal was performed in their special style based on a poem composed by Kunchan Nambiar, “Ramanucharitam” Based on Rama from Ramayanam and Krishna from the later yuga as characters. It is the story of how Krishna cured Garuda and his own wife Rukmini from their inordinate pride. Krishna sends Garuda to go and meet Hanuman and request him to come to Dwaraka. Garuda goes to Hanuman, but Hanuman says he is not willing to come and meet a person who stole butter and milk and the clothes of women. Hanuman insists that he had only one swamy(deity ) and that was Rama and he would not come to meet anyone else. Garuda, angry, returns and reports this to Krishna. Krishna sends him back saying that Rama would be there in Dwaraka. When Garuda gave this message, Hanuman insists that he would come to see Rama only if he is accompanied by his wife, Sita. Garuda again goes back and reports this. Krishna sends him back saying that Rama would be there accompanied by Sita. After Garuda goes off, Krishna decides to take on the guise of Rama. He asks his wives whether any one would be able to impersonate Sita. Everyone says that it is not possible for them. He asks Rukmini who also finds it impossible to dress up like Sita. Finally , he asks Satyabhama who manages to do that. Garuda took a long time to go to Hanuman and reported that Rama and Sita would be there. Then he returns thinking that it will take a long time for Hanuman to come to Dwaraka. But, when he reports back to Krishna, he finds out that Hanuman had already come to Dwaraka , worshipped Krishna dressed as Rama and Satyabhama dressed as Sita and gone back. Thus Garuda and Rukmini were cured of their inordinate pride.
This is a poem in which Bhagavatham and Ramayanam are combined and the atmosphere of Ramayana is created .
Ottan Tullal is 250 years old.
Kutiyattam is two thousand years old. The story goes that Kunchan Nambiar who was playing on the Mizhavu for the Chakiar, was sleepy and missed to do a particular beat known as Swasakottu. Chakiar made fun of him in public. Offended, in retaliation he composed a poem Kalyanasougandhikam and enacted it the very next day while the Chakiar Koothu was going on. Because of the novelty of this performance, the audience who came to watch the koothu went to see Nambiar's Ottan Thullal.
Before Nambiar's time, there was Tullal.. But the whole form became vibrant after Nambiar took over and wrote new poems for enactment.
Kunchan Nambiar is supposed to have lived between 1705 – 1770. There are no historical evidences to prove Kunchan Nambiar's origins. The few facts we know are that he was the son of a nangiar from Kalakkath house and a Namboodiri from Kitangoor Kallambilli Mana. No evidence of his origin or whereabouts. We have cases of an individual becoming prominent through a movement and a movement becoming prominent through an individual. In the case of Kunchan Nambiar, Tullal became famous because of him. There were many kinds of Tullals even before Nambiar came to the scene. But, Kunchan Nambiar is the person who integrated the Tullal into a movement.
Kunchan Nambiar was an extra-ordinary individual. He was a poet, artist, mimic, and he was proficient in rhythms, literature, and languages such as Malayalam, Hindi, Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu. He was noted for his humour. Simple and humorous language that he used in his poems gave many people access to this form. He also made it attractive through dress, and the puns and rhythms he used. All aspects were included to attract people – simple language, humour, puns, rhythm, costume. It became a popular art. Chakiar Koothu is also humorous and helps people to actively participate in the event. But, the difference between the two forms is the difference between poetry and prose enactment.
Poetry has limitations. What is given in the line alone can be recited. There is more freedom in prose; anything can be said. Nambiar's poetry is distinct for its simplicity, humour, puns such as Dwitiyaksharaprasam, definite structure of the poem. The other name which should be remembered in connection with Tullal is that of Malabar Raman Nair, who modernized Tullal in all aspects such as costume, singing, accompaniments and made a new and more appealing framework.
Language in Tullal was used for promoting Social criticism. Nambiar used Aakshepahasyam (critical humour), Lokokti (the common sayings) and Pazhanchollu (proverbs). The other special feature of Nambiar's Tullals is that he was able to bring the atmosphere of Kerala into it whichever story or location he chose. So, people could relate to these stories easily. There are some new Tullals written, but they lack the literary beauty of Nambiar's Tullals. Nambiar's descriptions of places, people, events, even food items is very detailed. He is supposed to have initiated Kerala Bhasha (language of Kerala). Several meters have been used in Tullals such as Tarangini, Ardhakeka, Hamsaplutham, Kakali, Kalakanchi etc.