Watch: The Amazing Mallakhamb Video, Gymnastics With a Twist

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A boy performs a Mallakhamb pose on a pole as others watch at the Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir in Mumbai, October 21, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Vivek Prakash

A boy performs a Mallakhamb pose on a pole as others watch at the Shree Samartha Vyayam Mandir in Mumbai, October 21, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Vivek Prakash

Mallakhamb is an ancient Indian traditional sport and if you’ve ever seen a demonstration you are guaranteed never to forget it. The word ‘malla’ means gymnast and ‘khamb’ pole. Mallakhamb’s been around for centuries and was recognised as part of modern gymnastics at the national level in 1958. The problem is most folks still don’t know what it’s about.

To remedy that gap, ExhaleSports teamed up a group of Mallakhamb experts to make one of the most amazing sports videos out there:

Video made by ExhaleSports and used with their permission

We were so blown by the video that we decided to catch up with the promoters of ExhaleSports – Shiv Burman, Uday Jhala and Kanishk Sinha – to discuss their work:

What prompted you to make the video?

Exhale Sports was started because we believed there was a lack of edgy and emotive ‘non live’ sports video content in India. Our goal is to inspire a new generation of fans to experience sports like never before. Apart from the normal sports we see on TV, we wanted to also highlight alternative sports across the country; and that’s how we came across Mallakhamb and were fascinated by the skill at display – strength, flexibility and concentration (all attributes of top level athleticism). We were sure if this was presented in an aesthetically pleasing style it would get a lot more attention than the sport has got previously.

Tell us something about the process of making the video.

For us, two things were important. One, the incredible skills of the Mallakhamb athletes, and two, the aesthetic presentation, so that younger audiences consumed it.

We chose a location which would give it a grungy and rustic look and chose music which was classy yet modern (electronic violin). The athletes are dedicated to growing their sport and making people aware of it, so, they were completely on board with trying new routines and repeating shots until we got it perfect. Given the ‘wow’  factor of the sport, it was just merely a case of letting them do what they do best and we just had to make sure we captured it! It’s really the tremendous skills of the athletes that makes this video what it is.

So why the interest in ‘desi sports’?

India has some very interesting sports which have high skill level and are deep routed in our culture. We believe if presented well, these sports have the capability to amaze Indian audiences and give them a sense of pride. Of course, the awareness levels increase but it also gives us an opportunity to position ourselves uniquely.

What’s next on your agenda?

We are launching another series called ‘Perfection of the Craft’, where we look into what sets some elite athletes apart from the rest.  Our first episode features the shooter Abhinav Bindra and really brings out his obsession with perfection and how tough his sport is. The general perception with shooting is that its all in the eye, but the sport is a lot more complicated than that and requires a serious level of mental and physical discipline. Its a sport that doesn’t allow a single mistake. In cricket, an outside edge can get you the best result, but in this sport there is no margin for error. Abhinav’s book has a great line: “You have to be more perfect than the perfect men on the perfect day”. That sums up his sport. We are also in the process of conceptualising and executing a number of other series across different genres – but all centered solely around sport.

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