The Vattappattu group from the PKMHSS in Edarikode, Malappuram, enjoys a kind of legendary status, having won all but one of the competitions since the event was re-introduced in the State School Art Fest in 2005. Even before the event was over, the buzz at the Kottapadi ground, which was filled to the brim, was about the novelty in their clapping style and their standout eyebrow movements. True to predictions, they won yet again.

“I have been training the Edarikode team for the past five years after my guru Nasser Edarikode passed over the mantle to me. It helps that I once used to perform for this team,” says Abdullah Edarikode, who boasts of 166 ‘shishyas’ in this year’s festival, with multiple winning teams in Oppana, Mappilapattu and Vattappattu. Vattappattu, the male version of Oppana, originated as a time-pass event on the day before the weddings in Malabar. Groups from the groom’s and bride’s side trade verses and claps till one got tired. The verses are usually in five languages – Arabic, Malayalam, Tamil, Persian, and Urdu. Much of the literature on which the art is based was written by Tamil Pulavans. The event was introduced in the School Art fest as Oppana (boys) in 1993, only to be discontinued in 1998.