If anyone were to ask me to describe this year’s Midnight Madness: People’s Choice Winner at TIFF, Vasan Bala’s crazy, eccentric and zany action comedy ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’ (released internationally as ‘The Man Who Feels No Pain’) in one line, I would simply quote a dialogue from the film, occurring somewhere along the two-thirds mark of the movie. A distressed mother, advising her daughter, Supri (an excellent Radhika Madan) on escaping from an abusive relationship, “If you think too much, you’ll begin to see logic in the plan”, she says. This is what I felt the essence of the film was; throw logic out the window, kick back with a tub of popcorn, and enjoy as you discard any and everything you consider conventional about a film plot. Isn’t that the primal reason we go to the movies, to have a good time? To be entertained?
The film, deriving its name from a dialogue from Amitabh Bachchan’s 1985 classic ‘Mard’, is the story of Surya, a boy with a rare disorder called Congenital Insensitivity to pain (Google it later, as the film says) because of which he literally cannot feel any damage being inflicted upon his body. His only weakness: Dehydration. To add to the mix, the boy has grown up on a generous dose of the potboiler brand of Bollywood action cinema from the 80s, and martial arts movies from the east, the likes of which are considered cult classics now. He considers it a staple, so much so, that he continuously mouths the films’ titles or dialogues in completely odd situations, landing some hilarious punches. “Paap ko jalakar raakh kar dunga!” (I will burn sin to ashes), he says on one occasion, standing on a rooftop. “Geraftaar”, he shouts on another, both being names of extremely popular pulp films from the 80s.
I honestly would have found the film completely ridiculous at points had I not been completely blown over by the director, Vasan Bala’s confidence in what he was doing. That confidence is infectious, and you are quickly sucked into the quirky, slo-mo world that the director creates in the form of Surya’s imagination, populated with black and white flashbacks (life recaps), over-the-top sequences, and action that would make a healthy big budget Bollywood production shy away. Although used mostly in a quasi-comical sense, the fight sequences are crisp, well-choreographed and look gorgeously mounted in slow motion. That the protagonist can’t really express visible pain adds all the more fun to the already zany proceedings.
The music is another big ace in the hole for the film, perfectly complementing all the crazy happening on screen. Bala, here, conceivably takes a page from his frequent collaborator Kashyap’s handbook on how to use music in films, where the score becomes more about the essence of the scene, rather than elaborate sing and dance sequences. The fights are an added delight to watch with the songs.