Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota

Director: Vasan Bala
Year:  2018
Rating: 8.0

Aka The Man Who Feels no Pain

I need to start watching more recent Bollywood films if this and Jagga Jasoos are to go by. There seems to be a new group of young directors brought up on Western and Asian films, animation, video games and MTV who are breaking with Bollywood film traditions and yet at the same time retaining its spirit and heart. This one is fanciful, whimsical, inventive and highly entertaining with an eccentric ever changing mix of comedy, drama and kung fu. It is from a director (Vasan Bala) who had only one film on his resume and he brings in two young actors with practically no film experience. And makes it feels so fresh and so much fun.

That is true right from the opening scene in which a group of men are rushing the hero of the film to beat the crap out of him and he needs to explain to the audience just how this came about. To do so he has to go back to his birth - well actually a few minutes before his birth as his parents watch an action movie starring Anil Kapoor in a movie theater. And so the story begins with the narrator telling his tale with more than a few embellishments along the way - the Terminator tries to kill his mother to stop his birth but she pulls out her guns and blasts him away. He admits this probably didn't really happen. But it should have.

Surya (Abhimanyu Dasani) is born into the world with no pain. He can't feel it. While being brought home from the hospital in a motorcycle with a sidecar, thieves on another motorcycle snatch the necklace of his mother and cause the transport to crash killing the mother and sending the father, grandfather and baby crashing to the ground. The baby just smiles. Pain teaches us as we grow up - not to touch a burning stove, not to stick ourselves with sharp objects, not to jump off of high places - but if you feel no pain those lessons are hard to come by as all his broken bones can attest to.

Considered a freak by other kids, Surya creates a bond with a Supri (Radhika Madan), a little girl with an abusive father and they try and protect each other but eventually Surya's father decides the boy needs to be isolated for his own safety. They move away where with the advice of his grandfather (Mahesh Manjrekar) Surya dreams of becoming a kung fu hero - after watching hundreds of videos of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan - and saving the world from necklace snatchers. And in particular one video in which a one-legged man beats 100 men in a fight impresses him - and the video is pretty cool. One-Armed we know about, but one legged is even harder!

In a sense Surya never grows up - he is a man-child with thoughts of wearing a mask and saving the day - and practices kung fu from the movies obsessively. Finally, he ventures out into the real world and comes across a woman who is beating the daylights out of a group of men with her own martial arts. He falls in love on the spot. This of course turns out to be his friend from childhood Supri, who learned her fighting skills from . . . the one legged man (Gulshan Devaiah) who is now a sotted drunk.

This all leads to a delightful story of redemption, revenge and salvation among a series of bang bang fights that are well choreographed and enjoyably exaggerated. I have no idea what the real life martial skills of these actors are - but they do a fine job of faking it here with some great athletic moves right out of Hong Kong. Though the film never stops for a musical number, there is a constant series of songs that play either in the background or over the story and they fit like a glove. All of the actors are terrific - hopefully the young actors will go on to some good films and the two veterans playing the grandfather and the one legged man are great (he actually has a dual role as his no good villain brother). I can't really pin it down but I have a feeling that this director has seen Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle a few times but maybe not - but they share the same anything goes spirit.