While the Marvel – DC rivalry gathers heat, there’s a sub-genre of superhero parody films that have made their very own space. These films do not boast of over-the-top special effects, powerful meta-humans, or world-threatening events. They consist of beaten down underdogs who develop a quixotic obsession to emulate the vigilantism of superhero characters that they come across in comics and TV. The 2010 film Kick Ass is one where a gangly teenager decides to become a ‘superhero’ by going through the motions that superheroes typically do like stitching their own costume to learning martial artforms, and finally venturing out into the street to use his ‘newfound powers’ to rid the world against all evil. Except that it isn’t as easy as he thinks it to be and he learns it the hard way. When you are a wannabe vigilante, you are beaten to pulp against your flawed mental image of a heroic fighter.
Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota which loosely translates to “the man who feels no pain”, also feels like a superhero parody except that it is far more whacky and insane in its treatment of the theme. The titular character Surya suffers from a nerve disorder which renders him immune to any kind of pain or sensation right from his birth. While his father tries to keep him enclosed and protected against the outside world, his grandfather whom he fondly calls Aazoba teaches him the concept of pain. Since he cannot really know how the sensation of pain feels, Aazoba defines painful situations through the use of word association. Everytime Surya hit his toe or banged his head somewhere without effect, Aazoba would prompt him to say “Ouch”. For good measure, Aazoba also guides him to stay hydrated all the time since he would never even feel tired. As he grows up watching old martial arts films, his penchant for ridding the world of scum grows bigger. What the world called a nervous disorder, would be his edge.
Taking up a clichéd Bollywood line and subverting it into a literal sense for a character brings out a weird plot that has space for action, dark humour and even romance.
What the film lacks in finesse, it makes up in the ingenious execution of the idea itself. Taking up a clichéd Bollywood line and subverting it into a literal sense for a character brings out a weird plot that has space for action, dark humour and even romance. Debutante Abhimanyu Dassani portrays a doe-eyed Don Quixote who lives in a fictionalised world of his own where karate masters defeated entire mobs and justice always prevailed. Mahesh Manjrekar as Aazoba is the quintessential grandpa who lets him follow his ways. Manjrekar’s hilarious comic timing and colourful personality makes for some of the best moments in the film. Gulshan Devaiah who plays Karate Master Mani as well as his arch-nemesis Jimmy is fantastic with some of the best lines in the film. Devaiah brings in amazing contrast between the two characters that he plays which goes on to only reinforce his calibre as an actor after his memorable performance in Hunterrr. Lastly, Radhika Madan’s character of Supri repeats her act of a fierce young woman who beats goons to pulp, akin to Chloe Mortez’s character from Kick Ass.
Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota does not follow the traditional hero’s journey and should not be confused with a superhero film. For me, it is an homage to every single Bollywood trope that had sought to establish the machismo of the 80s heroes and villains, through a garb of dark humour which breaks down the unrealistic Bollywood style by acting it out literally. Here villains don’t gang up on the heroes after a fist-fight. They quietly limp out of the room. Here heroes don’t always make the wisest decisions. They go for a sure shot and fall flat on their faces. Bala’s film is the real-world inhabited by clichés who don’t know where they are.
In its whackiness, it rushes throughs a few character arcs that feel unnecessary, for instance Supri’s family with her ailing mother and dominating boyfriend feels like an afterthought and doesn’t really fit into the story. The romance between Surya and Supri is also under-written, and doesn’t really get us invested in that relationship. The dynamic between Mani and Jimmy also feels unexplored for the larger part. I would have liked to know more about their background.
Having said that, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota is an entertaining joyride with some of the most realistic hand-to-hand fight sequences I have seen in a long time. It is funny and is fully aware of what it stands for as a film. This can easily have some character spin-offs for ‘100 man Kumite’ and for ‘Aazoba’. I would pay to watch that !