Vasan Bala’s The Man Who Feels No Pain is one of the films up for the audience award at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival and boy is it a lot of fun. It’s a light-hearted ode to 80s action mixed with some brilliant Bollywood elements to create something wildly enjoyable. The film is silly but it acknowledges its own silliness and runs with it, offering hilarious moments of meta dialogue and genre parody. It tells the story of the eponymous man, Surya (Abhimanyu Dasani), and his battle with Mumbai’s ‘chain snatchers’ and gangsters. This film nails fun on the head, never allowing itself to be bogged down in plot or super serious characters, constantly winking at the audience with fourth wall breaks and an incredible soundtrack.
Surya was never supposed to survive for so long. His superpower is actually presented as dangerous neurological condition that could easily lead to his death. Realising this, Surya’s overprotective father (Jimit Trevedi) constantly attempts to keep him out of trouble but he keeps finding himself in it. He’s not helped by the fact that his grandfather (Mahesh Manjrekar) has rented every martial arts video in India and his best friend Supri (Radhika Madan) is happy to fight bullies with him. After a tragic accident, Surya is pulled away from Supri and lives in solitude, banned from training martial arts by his worrisome father. We see Surya grow up idolising a one-legged karate master Mani (Gulshan Devaiah) and secretly training for the day he can battle evil.
When Surya sees posters being put up for a one hundred man fight with Mani, he signs up instantly, embroiling him in a battle with Mani’s evil twin, Jimmy (also played by Devaiah), described by the protagonist as a cliché psychotic villain with tongue firmly in cheek. Supri returns to the scene to aid the two men defeat Jimmy and his army of security service henchmen, battling her own familial problems along the way.
The Man Who Feels No Pain is a film that will most certainly bring a smile to your face, especially if you are a fan of 80s action stupidity as I am. Whilst there are some genuinely emotional moments, Bala never settles on any one tone for too long at a time, skilfully switching the mood with witty dialogue or some epic martial arts featuring gratuitous slow-motion hi-kicks. The martial arts are nothing stunning, but they are well choreographed enough to be entertaining, each character’s idiosyncrasies incorporated into their own unique fighting style. The plot is a little thin and whimsical at times, especially surrounding Surya’s origin story, but the film tries to maintain its freshness with a number of different plots relating to the various characters. Subtly it presents the battle between women’s empowerment and a traditional patriarchal view whilst managing to keep the tone light.
The acting is solid all round, particularly from first-timer Dasani who conveys a childish sense of wonder in every scene he’s in. Special mention must go to the soundtrack also, originally composed for the film, the lyrics describe the events on screen in hilarious and pumping fashion. The highlight of these being the lyrics “Show me the Mani/Give me the Jimmy” as the twins face off against one another. The Man Who Feels No Pain’s biggest issue is its lengthy running time at over 2 hours. The script certainly could have been tightened up, shaving off some unnecessary scenes, especially in the middle, though the overall piece is charming enough to see it through.
The Man Who Feels No Pain is destined to become a cult classic. Its blend of humour, meta-commentary, subtle looks at Indian society and hammy yet thrilling action make it a whole load of fun. It never takes itself too seriously, winking at the audience throughout, without becoming a parody of itself. The runtime is a little long but it’s a minor gripe in a film that brought a huge smile to my face and plenty of laughs to the audience throughout.
Ewan Wood | [rating=4]
Action, Comedy | India, 2019 | 12A | Dir.Vasan Bala | Abhimanyu Dasani, Gulshan Devaiah, Radhika Madan