QUEEN'S ROAD: Forty-year-old Ranjan Mullaratt is fit as a fiddle. In his traditional Kalarippayattu costume, he jumps around with his sword and shield, blocking attacks from his student Sudharshan Sampath. For the uninitiated, this can be scary to observe from close quarters.
The clanging of metal stops as the artists finish the sequence, and the crowd that had gathered around to watch disperses.
City Express met the master and his student at Cubbon Park for a conversation and some photographs.
Ranjan Mullaratt started Kalari Academy of Performing Arts in Bengaluru in 1999 after learning Kalaripayattu under P K Balan Gurukkal for 12 years. The academy has branches at Chikkagubbi and Brigade Road. The branch at Chikkagubbi is built in the traditional way with mud bricks and a thatched roof. Students practise in an eight-foot-deep underground space, says Ranjan.
“When you engage in such intense physical activity for long spans of time, your body gets heated. That is why it is advised to practise underground, where it is cooler,” he explains.
However, the branch at Brigade Road doesn’t have this facility. The flooring there is made of wood. The academy currently has 250 students of ages six to 60. For a nominal monthly fee of Rs 1,000, one can join the beginners’ course and take two one-and-a-half hour-classes a week.
People from other parts of the country and the world can sign up for the residential course that costs Rs 20,000 per month. Through the course period, the students will stay at Ranjan’s house and learn kalaripayattu the gurukulam way.
The course has had takers from countries like Argentina, USA and UK who stayed over for six months and learnt the martial art, says Ranjan.
The master explains what the training entails. “First, the students are taught body-toning exercises that will help them achieve fitness and flexibility. They will then graduate to acrobatics and perform different types of flips and kicks. Once the basics are mastered, they will be taught to use wooden and subsequently, metal weapons.”
He goes on to add, “With sufficient training, the weapon becomes an extension of one’s body and further, a test of one’s skill.”
Sandalwood star Puneeth Rajkumar trained under Ranjan for three years, while Raghavendra Rajkumar and Malayalam actor Bhavana also practised under his guidance. The artiste once choreographed a sequence for a Chyawanprash commercial with Saurav Ganguly.
While awareness about the ancient martial art has increased over the years, the academy continues to teach its students for the same fees. Asked why he hasn’t increased the rates, Ranjan says, “I want more people to come forward and take up Kalaripayattu. The training is hard enough, I don't want money to be a deterrent too.”
Ranjan’s wife Shiny also learnt Kalaripayattu from him. And their three-year-old son is already showing interest in the art, he feels.
The artiste recently launched a coffee-table book titled Kalari Gurukulam, which explains the history of Kalaripayattu, training, weaponry and other aspects through pictures. The book will be available at major stores from next week onwards.
For more information, call 99451 55995 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org