No quarter given. Exponents of the ancient martial art – Kalaripayattu – demonstrate their skills at Global Village Image Credit: Abdel Krim-Kallouche/XPRESS

DUBAI Global Village visitors were left spellbound on Friday by a stunning display of what’s claimed to be the oldest form of martial arts – Kalaripayattu of Kerala.

Enthralling the crowds using daggers, swords and spears were none other than performers and stunt masters who enacted the famous fight and battle scenes in the recent Bollywood blockbuster Bajirao Mastani that starred Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone.

The performers are members of the CVN Kalari centre in Kerala, a 70-year-old training school that conducts lessons in the use of weapons such as daggers, swords, spears, maces, bows and arrows.

The men began the show with a warm-up routine involving a set of exercises to the beats of a drummer on stage. As curious visitors of diverse nationalities gathered before the revamped Global Village stage, the artists changed gear and went on to demonstrate their famed fighting skills using various weapons.

Working first with sticks (ottakol), the Kalari artists had the crowd cheering them with every move they made.

But it was when they pulled out the daggers and swords that people went silent, unsure of what to expect next. What followed was vigorous combat between supremely skilled martial arts exponents as they executed one deadly move after another in a brilliantly choreographed fight sequence.

“What we have shown here at Global Village is just a glimpse of Kalaripayattu, the oldest martial arts form in the world dating back more than 2,000 years. It is the forerunner of Chinese martial arts. Unfortunately India had lost touch with this ancient art until it was revived 80 years ago by my grandfather by setting up the CVN Kalari centre in Kerala,” said Gopa Kumar, owner of the CVN Kalari centre.

“Our masters have trained a number of enthusiasts from all over the world, taking the martial arts to an all new level,” said Kumar.

“Performing at the Global Village is a huge opportunity for us, considering it is a melting pot of people of different cultures. The crowds loved our performance and we hope to come back next year with a bigger show.”

Brush with celebs

The CVN Kalari centre has gained fame after its association with a number of Indian and international movies. “We have trained celebs like Jackie Chan in The Myth, Shah Rukh Khan in Dil Se and Asoka, Ajay Devgn in Lajja, Abhishek Bachchan and Vikram in Ravan, and more recently Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone in Bajirao Mastani,” he said.

Healing massage

Kumar has set up a stall for a specialised Kalari massage called Marma Chikitsa. The massage, using medicated ayurvedic oils, is said to cure ailments such as backache, joint pains, spondylitis, arthritis and rheumatic diseases. “A lot of people from the Gulf region come to Kerala for treatment. Seeing such a huge response, we are planning to open a centre in Dubai soon.”