From Me­dieval Com­bat to Adi­pose

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

An ac­tress who made news re­cently, not for act­ing in any thes­pian sense but in the sense of mov­ing from pur­pose to achieve­ment, claimed she lost weight by prac­tic­ing kalar­ip­pay­attu, the mar­tial art from Ker­ala. This is quite strik­ing. Not the bit about a woman tak­ing up fight­ing, of course. Ker­ala’s bal­lads of brav­ery sing paeans to the com­bat skills of a comely maiden of me­dieval times, Un­ni­yarcha, who did not have ac­cess to a sin­gle emer­gency num­ber she could call on her phone, or to a phone, for that mat­ter, when ha­rassed by a bul­lies who fan­cied them­selves as romeos, and pro­ceeded to beat the fully pro­cessed breakfast out of them with her kalari train­ing. No, what is strik­ing is the re­pur­pos­ing of a fierce form of pre-gun­pow­der com­bat for the mod­ern bat­tle of celebrity bulge.

Of course, the claim is en­tirely cred­i­ble, to the ex­tent that kalar­ip­pay­attu in­volves hard phys­i­cal train­ing, meant to make the body both strong, sup­ple and re­spon­sive — the ul­ti­mate goal is to make the en­tire body, and not just the eye, see your op­po­nent’s ev­ery move. But the claim’s cred­i­bil­ity takes noth­ing away from its shock value: what was once the means of con­quest or de­fence of the realm, what de­cided vic­tory or de­feat, in fact, life or death, has now be­come a tool of cos­metic en­hance­ment.

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