Prof. Phillip Zarrilli’s  name will already be familiar to many.  His book, When the Body Becomes All Eyes: Paradigms, Discourses and Practices of Power in Kalarippayattu, a South Indian Martial Art (Oxford UP, 2000) was an important landmark in the development of Martial Arts Studies.  It provided readers with both the first ethnographic study of kalarippayattu and new models for the scholarly study of the physical aspects of the martial arts.  Those wanting to learn more about his body of work may want to check out this paper, or watch his keynote address at last years Martial Arts Studies conference.

Recently, I was asked if I would pass along the following note from Professor Zarrilli, and I have done so below.  This could be a great opportunity for any scholar or filmmaker interested in this martial art.  Please feel free to share this request on social media.




OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE AN EXTRAORDINARY MARTIAL ARTS DOCUMENTARY on kalarippayattu, the martial art of Kerala, India


I began an initial year of ethnographic research on kalarippayattu as an embodied practice in 1976 at the CVN Kalari, East Fort Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala while on a Fulbright Fellowship. I immersed myself in the practice of kalarippayattu with the permission of my primary teacher, Gurukkal Govindankutty Nayar. I subsequently lived in Kerala for a total of seven years between 1976 and 1998 while conducting my research and immersing myself in the actual practices of kalarippayattu. During those seven years of ethnographic research in Kerala, I traveled the length and breadth of Kerala, observing many different styles and traditions of teaching, and documenting practice through photographs, silent super 8 film, super 8 film with sound, and eventually videotape.




The results of my research include: (1) my book-length ethnographic and socio-cultural study of kalarippayattuWhen the body becomes all eyes: paradigms, practices, and discourses of power in kalarippayattu published by Oxford University Press (1998); (2) many articles in a diverse set of academic journals about kalarippayattu; and (3) a virtual treasure-trove of literally hours of visual footage of kalarippayattu and hundreds of black and white and color photographs.


It has always been my aspiration to see this audio-visual documentation shaped and edited into a documentary about kalarippayattu. During my years of involvement in higher education, I was never able to have to time or funding to undertake the making of this documentary.


I am writing this open invitation to see if there is a documentary film-maker, and/or academic faculty member who might be interested in seeking funds to archive my collection and shape it into a major documentary. Time is of the essence in order to preserve the original audio-visual documentation.


If interested, please contact me:



Prof. Phillip Zarrilli

Emeritus Professor, Drama Department, Exeter University


Permanent address:

Tyn y parc

Llanarth SA470PB

Wales, U.K.

Telephone: (44) 01545-580376; mobile: 07557416831