'Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota' review: Vasan Bala gives a fun, quirky tribute to action films of the 1980s

Abhimanyu Dassani in a poster of 'Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota' Photograph:( Twitter )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 20, 2019, 01.55 PM (IST) Written By: Shomini Sen

Filmmaker-writer Vasan Bala has been around writing and making films, shorts and ad films for years now. His first feature film, 'Peddlers' did the rounds of the international festivals but never got a commercial release in India. In his first commercial release, 'Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota', the filmmaker revisits his childhood, an era of VHS and VCPs and gives a mad, fun, quirky tribute to the Fu films of the yore. The film may not make sense in some parts but ultimately gives you an adrenaline rush and a lot of laughs. 

Featuring debutant Abhimanyu Dassani as Surya, the film is a joyous ride from the word go with hilarious lines, dollops of 80's music and good old karate. The film narrates the story of Surya, a kid born with a rare condition of Congenital Insensitivity to pain which basically means that he can't feel any pain. Prone to get hurt and dehydrated quickly, he has lived a very sheltered life with his over-protective father and an overindulgent grandfather who has fed him with tales from far and beyond and made him a movie junkie. Angry at being separated from his childhood best friend Supri because of her drunkard father, he vows to learn Karate and fight the evil when he grows up. Over the years, Surya picks up Karate lessons by watching a video of a 100 man knockout tournament that a certain Karate Mani (Gulshan Devaiah) organises every year in suburban Mumbai. 

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As Surya grows up and exposed to the outside world, his first encounter is with his long lost friend Supri (what are odds!) and Karate Mani whose treasured chain has been stolen by his evil twin Jimmy. Now it's up to Surya to get the chain back, make Supri (Radhika Madan) fall in love with him and earn Karate Mani aka Karate man's trust. 

From Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton to Bruce Lee, Vasan Bala- who also serves as the writer of the film- takes ample references from cliche and not so cliche actioners. The result is a cinema-fed Surya who even as an adult uses dialogues to converse with people much to their amusement. There are references to films like 'Enter The Dragon', 'Karate Kid', 'Aaj Ka Gunda Raj' and even 'Kesari'  which incidentally releases on the same day. 

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The first half appears a tad overstretched and the action-sequences after a point seem a bit repetitive but the real action takes place in the second half as cliche psychotic villain Jimmy is introduced. The film's pace picks up post interval with a hilarious, edge of the seat climax. 

Newcomer Abhimanyu Dassani is impressive in his first film. He reportedly trained for 4 months to fit the part and it shows on screen. His stunts are awe-aspiring and Dassani brings in a child-like innocence to his character Surya who is mostly devoid of any emotions. 

It is also impressive to see a film that makes both the hero and the heroine kick some ass in equal measure. Radhika Madan, who impressed one and all in her debut performance in 'Patakha' packs a solid punch with her role as Supri. Credit should also be given to Vasan Bala for creating such a strong character who can fight the goons but is also aware of the way the world functions. In one poignant scene, Supri can be seen telling her mother how she lacks ambition in life and how money is an important factor to live life. That's a first for an Indian heroine, to be talking about career, ambition (or the lack of it) and the importance of money. Bollywood usually doesn't give its female characters a job and neither does it bother to address it in its films. 

The film though clearly belongs to Gulshan Devaiah, who has two difficult characters to portray on screen. One is that of one-legged Karate Mani who is soft, guilt-ridden and loyal to his job and the other of the mad, psychotic, evil Jimmy. Two extremely contrasting characters but Deviah completely owns the screen whenever he is in it. I'd hope that the makers do a spin-off on Deviah's Jimmy in a few years. I would want to watch more of Jimmy's story on screen. Deviah, who is a frequent collaborator with Bala, gets both the characters just right and is pitch perfect as Mani and outrageous as Jimmy- in equal measures. 

It is also good to see Mahesh Manjrekar in a prominent role after ages. Manjrekar as Surya's grandfather is endearing. You'd want a fun grandparent like his character Ajoba. 

'Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota' is experimental in the way the story is told. The music is a mix of rap, 80's style music and contemporary sounds and it enhances the narrative to a great extent. Some might find the story impractical or childish but it surely gives a fitting tribute to action films of the yore which as a kid we all have consumed to a great extent- much like Surya. 

The film doesn't give us pain for sure, instead it 'breaks' a few cliches, gives us a new villain to loathe and love and introduces us to two new talents to watch out for- Vasan Bala and Abhimanyu Dassani.