When S. R. D. Prasad took his first steps in Kalaripayattu, he did not really know what it was all about. He was only five then.
Now 79, Prasad Gurukkal has spent a lifetime learning and teaching the martial art which he began learning from his father, Chirakkal T. Sreedharan Nair, a Kalaripayattu legend in his own right.
Mr. Prasad, who hails from Kannur district, won the Padma Shri for his contributions to the field of sport on Wednesday, a recognition that came as a sweet surprise.
‘’It is an encouragement for the teachers of Kalaripayattu. As an exercise form, Kalaripayattu is ideal for body conditioning and developing your reflexes. The younger generation is showing a lot of interest in it today,’‘ said Mr. Prasad, who has been teaching full-time since 1999 at the Sree Bharath Kalari, Valapattanam, which his father had established in 1948.
He rues the fact that Kalari exponents have not succeeded in projecting their art form the way their martial arts counterparts in Japan, China or Thailand have done on a global scale.
‘’Like them, we too should project Kalaripayattu in a sophisticated manner with the aid of modern technology. Somehow, Kalari masters were unable to do that despite Kalaripayattu being a wonderfully-evolved system,’‘ he says. Kalaripayattu has influenced and enriched more than 30 art forms in Kerala alone, including Kathakali, according to him.
Prasad Gurukkal says Sreedharan Nair, his late father, was an expert in the ‘Arapukai’ system of Kalaripayattu, a north Malabar system which he describes as a comprehensive art containing calisthenics, body conditioning, weapons and bare-handed fighting skills.
Sreedharan Nair had named his Kalari ‘Sree Bharath’ in 1948, a year after India gained Independence.
In 2015, S. R. D. Prasad Gurukkal won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his contributions to the martial arts of Kerala. He has also conducted lecture-demonstrations on Kalaripayattu and authored books on the system.
Mr. Prasad is married to Soumini. The couple have a daughter, Shubhra.