TIFF 2018 Movie Review: ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’

Takes you back to the time 7-year-old you broke your leg trying to leap into a flying kick.

‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’ (‘The Man Who Feels No Pain’) is more than just a film. As India’s Midnight Madness debut at TIFF2018, it’s an announcement that Bollywood can be more than just love songs and dancing. Directed by Vasan Bala, the film stars newcomer Abhimanyu Dassani, former TV actress Radhika Madan, Mahesh Manjrekar and Gulshan Devaiah in roles we rarely get to see in Hindi Cinema nowadays.

‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’ follows Surya (Abhimanyu Dassani) on his quest to becoming the ultimate Karate Man, vanquishing all the locket thieves in the city and overcoming his biggest weakness: dehydration. Surya who literally feels no pain due to a rare medical condition, is bullied and berated as a child. Finding comfort in his bubble of martial films, his grandfather’s (Mahesh Manjrekar) occasionally questionable guidance and his childhood best friend Supri (Radhika Madan), he forms his whole worldview around them. Film tropes became coping mechanisms, ‘80s Bollywood heroes became role models. Following the story through his perspective, the audience is treated to B-movie style flashbacks and masala film daydreaming, paired with an inner monologue that is so pure and wholesome.

Complete with a mysterious, decaying Karate Master (Mani) and a psychotic villain with a crazy back story (Jimmy), both played by Gulshan Devaiah, the film unabashedly plays homage to all the martial arts films that were an integral part of childhood for a whole generation of viewers. There are fight scenes that make you hoot and clap, references you didn’t see coming and jokes that make you laugh harder than they have any right to, just like the trailer promised. The film sucks you in with the slick action scenes, the effortless laughs, and the nostalgic soundtrack but stays with you because of how good it makes you feel. ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’ reminds you of the pure joy of watching films and re-enacting them as a kid, when you genuinely believed you could shoot lasers out of your eyes if you tried hard enough.

Surya presents these childhood idealistic notions of invincibility, of good and bad, but the film never judges him for it, never tries to snap him out of it. He lives without the fear of getting hurt, and instead of calling out the naivety of the thought, the film highlights how liberating it must feel. In fact, at multiple times in the story, this idea pushes the other characters and the viewers to fight the good fight and to question why we lost this part of ourselves in the first place.

Through Supri, Bala demonstrates a whole generation’s struggle of coming to terms with a concept of adulthood that they don’t feel equipped for. Stuck between conforming to expectations or following her heart, Supri’s main obstacle is the fear instilled in her that stops her from fighting for herself. Mani goes through a different version of the same fear, driven by guilt and a sense of failure. All the characters around Surya, including his father and grandfather, are afraid of something Surya can’t quite grasp, or maybe just doesn’t want to embrace.

The actors have spent an extensive amount of time preparing for their roles and it shows. Gulshan Devaiah is an irreplaceable component to the film, bringing such a great energy to every scene he’s in. The only thing better than Mani’s action scenes, is Jimmy’s comedic timing, packing bigger punches than the film’s literal fist fights. Radhika Madan shines as Supri, making it hard to take your eyes off her, whether she’s twisting arms or twirling around a playground. Abhimanyu Dassani’s debut shows great potential, as he transitions from his action scenes to physical comedy with ease while constantly maintaining the pure innocence of his character. The whole cast works so well together on screen, constantly playing off each other, making ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’ a treat to watch.

Through the tongue-in-cheek humor and mind-blowing action, the makers of the film manage to capture the crowd-pleasing essence of a masala film, without any of the problematic aspects of the genre. In a time where every Bollywood movie is eager to teach and preach, ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’ takes you back to the time 7-year-old you broke your leg trying to leap into a flying kick. But instead of yelling at you for being an idiot, Vasan Bala gives you a mat to cushion your next fall and a bottle of water to keep you hydrated.

BizAsiaLive.com rating: 4/5