As kids, all of us have always been fascinated by superheroes in video games and cartoons. From Popeye to Super Mario, these fun characters stayed with us much before Marvel and DC came into our lives. These characters seem to have caught the fancy of writer-director Vasan Bala, who has created a quirky, fun comedy, ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’, basing the premise on childhood superheroes, a rare disease and karate!
Dark humor seems to be finally making its way into India, with Andhadhun last month and this whacky tale now. In what is being called as India’s take on Deadpool, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota is a smaller version of a boy stuck with his childhood fantasy of being a vigilante against chain snatchers. Usually, dark comedies work majorly for their quotient of oddity, spunky dialogues and great characters weaved seamlessly into a tight script. Vasan Bala has got all the three perfectly on point, barring a slight drop in the tempo of the screenwriting in the second half. There is a boy (played by Abhimanyu Dassani) with a rare congenital insensitivity to pain, who quite literally, cannot feel any pain! He is the mard jisse dard nahi hota. Then, there his childhood friend and partner-in-crime (played by Radhika Madan), who leads a dual life of Lara Croft outside her home and a submissive girl caged under patriarchy. We also have an endearing yet weird grandfather (Ajoba played by Mahesh Majrekar), who instead of protecting his grandson from harm, teaches him the meaning of ‘pain’, leading to this chaos! Then we have a limping Karate Man (played by Gulshan Devaiah) that the leads look up to, for he can fight 100 men, but crumbles against his bullying and jealous twin-brother. It is these characters and their intertwined lives, that keep you invested, even when the movie slightly falters.
The montage scenes in the beginning are fun – you see a panicking father, an over-enthusiastic grandfather and a naughty child with an odd disorder. It’s endearing to see them teach him what pain means – he learns to say ‘Ouch’ when he is hurt! The boy is raised away from bullies, prying eyes and home-schooled, which leads him to be stuck with the ‘Karate Man’ movie he repeatedly watches on a Video Cassette all through his growing up years. The scenes where a worried Ajoba tries to talk to him about his growth into a man, and he conveniently dodges it, getting back to his fascination with martial arts. But the witty lines and off-beat characters seem lost in the second half, before the climax and that is the problem with the movie. Nonetheless, it picks up steam in the final moments and ends on a high.
Before I talk of the performances, a mention of the praise-worthy cinematography by Jay Patel for creating beautiful frames, slow-motion shots and montages in the first half. The hues of yellows and greys adds to the darkness of this dark comedy genre. Mahesh Majrekar as Ajoba has the wittiest lines and such a warm screen presence, despite not being the central character. Debutante Abhimanyu Dassani is good, though his childlike character has only a limited range of emotions which he displays, and it would be interesting to see how he follows it up in his next movies. Radhika Madan, thankfully makes a transition from the irrational television shows, and delivers a strong performance after a memorable debut in Patakha. It was fun to watch a female lead kick some asses and break those bones! But it is Gulshan Devaiah, who gets the most captivating and entertaining roles as the twin Shetty brothers. From the S P Balasubramnium style parody song to the mention of Matunga Tamilians and references to Rajini vs Kamal – these characters are colorful and Gulshan Devaiah delivers perfectly in both these contrasting roles.
It may not be as twisted and edge-of-the-seat as Andhadhun but is definitely a fun watch. I was lucky enough to catch it before its theatrical release at the Mumbai Film Festival. But make sure you catch it as soon as it is out in the theatres.
My Rating – 3.5/5 (0.5 here is for the sheer wackiness and oddity)