When it won the best film in the Midnight Madness category at TIFF18, #TheCinemawala correspondent John H Foote couldn’t catch it over there, due to some reason. But it had generated a tremendous buzz at the festival. Finally, after the India release with limited screens and a motley crowd, Vasan Bala’s ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota’ has been watched. Without an iota of doubt, this is the finest moment of Indian cinema, as we finally make the move into an entirely new genre for this audience – the pop culture-laden love child, born out of the threesome of kitsch masala films, over the top funkiness of the eighties Bollywood and several martial arts films courtesy Messers Bruce Lee and his ilk. MKDNH, as its acronym becomes, bears the stamp of crafty film making yet is a wholesome entertainer. Every scene has been woven with layers of introspection of the characters. This is a work of passion and it shows on screen, as director Vasan Bala puts his blood, sweat and madness into this zany film.
We meet Surya, the Mard who doesn’t know Dard, thanks to having been born with a congenital disorder of being immune to pain, as he leapfrogs over a bunch of goons and kicks the shit out them. Through a flashback, we meet Surya’s father, his mother and grandpa. A freak accident kills his mom, leaving his father traumatized. Grandpa takes care of the kid and Surya grows up on a steady meal of martial arts films, eighties revenge drama. Grandpa trains him to understand the concept of pain without the perception of it. For what is kryptonite to Superman, Surya’s bane is dehydration so he keeps sipping water from his water pack. Homeschooled and fed on a generous dose of films, Surya grows up on a make belief world, where he believes that he’s born to ward off the evil.
The thing about being a nerd is it takes one to know one. Vasan Bala, who’s clearly have been brought up on the cliche movies of the eighties and countless martial arts films, offers the greatest tribute to his inspiration. He re-tells the familiar origin story of a superhero, seen through his tinted pair of glasses, accompanied with a kickass arrangement of music. As the movie begins, Chiranjeevi comes up with his pelvic thrusts to the tunes of ‘It’s a challenge’ and I jumped along with joy as like every nineties kid, this used to be our jam. Vasan amps up this emotion with every showreel of his work. VHS cassettes are played one by one with pop culture references tumbling one after another from the likes of ‘The Terminator’, ‘Enter The Dragon’, ‘Game Of Death’, ‘Geraftar’, ‘Big Trouble In Little China’, ‘Drunken Master’, ‘Paap Ko Jalake Raakh Kar Dunga’, ‘Shahenshah’ and many more. The list goes on and on. Vasan makes the audacious move of not spoon-feeding the audience about his innumerable references that he keeps dropping throughout the film. If the audience gets it, it’s okay. If they don’t, they still end up happy as the movie doesn’t harp on it. This is a man, who knows his art very well. The film is technically a well shot, well-edited film. The dialogues are witty with some epic one-liners that are bound to make you go ROFL. The action scenes, which shows some gravity-defying fight sequences are whistle worthy.
Performance wise, every actor here is on top gear. Each character has been written with much love, evident from the way they appear on the screen. Abhimanyu Shivdasani in his debut act comes up with a superlative performance. He seems confident yet has the vulnerability of a child. Radhika Madan is fantastic as Supri, Surya’s childhood friend and a feisty woman who kicks ass on the drop of a hat yet has no control whatsoever on her own life, being bossed by her abusive boyfriend. Radhika has a tremendous screen presence and the camera loves her. After her career-defining debut in Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Patakha’, this role will take her to the big leagues. Mahesh Manjrekar as the grandpa is equally good. He gets some great lines to say and brings the house down with his witty one-liners. But the star of the film is Gulshan Devaiah. Man, what a phenomenal actor! As Karate Mani and his evil twin Jimmy, he just slays it. He literally burns the screen with his electrifying performance, though I feel his Jimmy was a tad better than his Karate Mani. An act that shares the DNA of Mike Myers in ‘Austin Powers – The Spy Who Shagged Me’ yet entirely original in its portrayal, Jimmy is every bit true to its profile – a cliche psychotic villain!
There’s an off chance that a viewer who may not share the same level of enthusiasm for pop culture that Mr Bala has and end up disliking the film. Less number of footfalls and the ongoing tussle between some theatre chains may have stagnated the growth but that cannot stop the film to get into the hall of fame of the greatest films ever. MKDNH has become my new favourite comedy after ‘Andaz Apna Apna’ and ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron’ and it is bound to achieve stellar heights.
Watch MKDNH for some epic fun. And if you still want to thump the chest hard reverberating with patriotism, the movie duly asks you to hop on to the next screen! Frankly, nobody in the country minds.
The Cinemawala Rating: 4/5