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Kerala dance exponent spreads COVID-19 awareness through ottamthullal

“I collected all the instructions, including the one about washing hands, wrote them
down and converted them into a thullal song,” said Vishnu M Gupta

Published: 03rd April 2020 07:57 PM  |   Last Updated: 03rd April 2020 07:57 PM   |  A+A-

Vishnu Gupta

Express News Service

KOCHI: Deviating from the usual stories, exponents of Kerala's traditional dance forms are now using their art to spread important messages among the audience in the wake of the COVID-19 scare.

One such performance whose video garnered over 5.2 lakh views on social media was of a 25-year-old civil engineer from Sreekrishnapuram, Palakkad, who,
through ottamthullal, spread public awareness on the directives issued by the
government as part of the fight against the novel coronavirus.

The idea took shape in Kalamandalam Vishnu M Gupta's mind after he came across the state government's guidelines on COVID-19.

“Often, the directives and guidelines get lost in the avalanche of messages on
WhatsApp and other social media platforms. So, I thought of using the medium of
dance to send across the message,” said Vishnu, who has been performing ottamthullal for the past 10 years.

“I collected all the instructions, including the one about washing hands, wrote them
down and converted them into a thullal song,” he said. The song and performance took shape with the involvement of other artists who, along with Vishnu, were named Silver Jubilee Fellowship beneficiaries in Sreekrishnapuram block panchayat.

He said traditionally, ottamthullal is purely based on the works of Kunjan Nambiar.
“However, I believe that whenever society is in need, an artist can use his art to create awareness,” said Vishnu. "Ottamthullal is a very people-friendly dance form and can be simple unlike kathakali and other dance forms. While enjoying the dance, viewers are also able to understand the message the performer is trying to send,” he said.

He said usually, he would have staged live performances. "However, since social
distancing is one of the points I am trying to make, I decided to record a video,” said the second-year PG student at Kalamandalam. Vishnu, who also tutors students in ottamthullal, is planning a full-fledged career as an exponent of the dance form.

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