Hindi Reviews

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota Review: Blood and Humour In A Film That Doesn’t Take Itself Seriously

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Director: Vasan Bala

Cast: Abhimanyu Dassani, Radhika Madan, Gulshan Devaiah, Mahesh Manjrekar

Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota is a hugely entertaining film that punches a hole through all the layers of reverence and seriousness built around Hindi cinema and action films.

The Hindi or Tamil film action hero is a fearless saviour of the moment and the day. The hero does not feel pain, or hunger, till the goal be reached and the masses be emancipated and the evil be vanquished and the wrongs righted. Blood, sweat, tears: nothing can stop our hero till the ultimate face off. The only thing the hero feels, in his quest, is love. For that girl next door heroine.

And so we have that kind of hero here, in Mard Ko Dard, a hero who doesn’t feel pain. Not because he is so intent on his goal, but simply because, he really cannot feel pain. The hero has a rare disease: Congenital Analgesia or insensitivity to pain. And this makes him the ultimate action hero.

Or not. He can get dehydrated extremely quickly, so our hero cannot really afford sweat or tears. Oh well, one out of three isn’t so bad.

*****

Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota is written and directed by Vasan Bala, and produced by Ronnie Screwvala/RSVP. The film stars debutant Abhimanyu Dassani, Radhika Madan, Gulshan Devaiah, Mahesh Manjrekar and others, and was shot by Jay Patel and edited by Prerna Singh.

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and was screened at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, before releasing theatrically.

***

A young couple are expecting their first child. It just so happens the father is a bit of a coward and the mother is a plucky, fearless woman who doesn’t mind getting into a loud argument with the local rowdy in a crowded movie theatre while pregnant.

And so young Surya (who will grow up to be played by Abhimanyu Dassani) is born. But a chain-snatch that goes horribly wrong results in the mother dying and the father and grandfather have to raise the little boy themselves. It’s when they figure out the boy has Congenital Insensitivity To Pain. And so, hypochondriac father does everything he can to protect the boy – even if it means putting him in padded clothing and tying his hands down so he doesn’t scratch himself to death. But grandfather has other ideas. He wants to instill courage in the kid, and so feeds him on a steady diet of old VCR cassettes of Hindi, Chinese, Hollywood films with martial art heroes and encourages the kid to learn to defend himself. One such tape is called ‘Karate Man’, featuring a one-legged martial arts hero called Karate Mani fending himself against 100 other fighters. This is all the inspiration Surya wants.

Little Surya meets little Supri (who will, in the future, be played by Radhika Madan) in school, and they become close friends. Supri is almost as fearless as the mother Surya has never seen, and often comes to his rescue. Because Surya cannot feel pain, including the big compass that has been impaled into him by his classmates.

While Surya’s father is a coward, Supri’s father is a drunk coward who beats his wife. And his child. But Supri doesn’t stand up to her father, something that Surya finds baffling. He tells her to burn him down with her laser eyes. More beatings and drunken bouts happen, and Supri and Surya decide to teach her father a lesson: except it goes wrong and the father falls off the roof of a building, seriously injured in the process. And so the Surya family is forced to leave the society and move into an old house outside the city.

Years pass. Surya grows up – properly hydrated with the help of a backpack water-bottle siphon his grandfather has made for him, and properly educated with the help of his disciplinarian father, and properly six-packed, with the help of ‘Karate Man’ (Gulshan Devaiah) VCR cassette.

Surya and his grandfather – Ajobaba (Mahesh Manjrekar) – decide one day to go back to their old house, that old society. Just as the police land up there to evict squatters. Ajobaba is also rounded up and Surya has to rescue him. But he runs into a young woman placing posters for Karate Mani’s classes. The young woman spots a few men trying to abduct a drugged girl and so Surya sees the love of his life for the first time again. Supri – for that is our young woman – beats up the bad guys with effortless ease, thanks to her mixed martial arts and karate learnt under Karate Mani, a flashback tells us how they met.

Surya and Supri meet many times after that second first encounter, and romance and attraction builds. But in a side plot, Karate Mani’s evil twin brother – who likes Rajinikanth – has stolen the family locket from Karate Mani.

And so Surya and Supri must have further adventures, avenge their mentor and retrieve the locket, and prove that they are indeed the rightful martial arts heroes.

*****

Can we have a Deadpool-Surya Crossover film please, because that is what the world needs right now!

Can we also have a Supri-Hit Girl-Kick Ass crossover film please, because I would love to see what Supri and Hit Girl can teach each other.

There’s a fantastic scene in Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, in which Supri and her mother are discussing life, marriage, men. Supri – like many young women – thinks she is not worth it, that she doesn’t know what her life is, what she needs to do. That someone like her who can beat up baddies but still subjects herself to the chauvinistic men in her life – her father and her boyfriend/fiance – is saddening. But later, her mother tells her to run away, make a life for herself. Get away from all these men in her life. Supri’s mother tells her – I didn’t know any better, I only did what was put into my head, even though I felt it was wrong. But you’re different. You’re a different generation, you can live your own life. I hope more mothers tell their daughters this.

Mard Ko… breaks linearity, goes back and forth, makes great use of flashbacks and haphazard narration to build up both the plot, and the funnies. Like rewinding a cassette back to your favourite bit of a film, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.

Every action scene – and they are all brilliantly choreographed and perfectly executed – not only looks and sounds realistic, and features a lot of blood, but is also foiled by a lovely verbal gag or subtle slapstick. So at no point is the film allowed to take itself seriously. There’s a touch of Quick Gun Murugan, there’s a lot of old comic books and VCR era action films, old Bollywood nostalgia, and a hero who really doesn’t feel pain. In other words, it’s a superbly funny Hindi film, one that I think is a rarity.

*****

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