×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto Film Review: ‘The Man Who Feels No Pain’

Vasan Bala's action-adventure fantasy pivots on the efforts of a young man eager to transcend his limitations to become a martial-arts hero.

Director:
Vasan Bala
With:
Abhimanyu Dassani, Radhika Madan, Mahesh Manjrekar, Gulshan Devaiah. (Hindi, English, Marathi, Malayalam dialogue)

2 hours 11 minutes

If you can imagine a mashup of mid-1960s Marvel Comics, ‘70s chop-socky pics showcasing Bruce Lee and Lee wannabes, ‘80s VHS action-adventure fodder and freewheeling, genre-scrambling Bollywood masalas, then you might… No, wait, never mind. Even if you make the effort to envision such an aggregation, you probably won’t be fully prepared for the full-tilt, over-the-top phantasmagoria of “The Man Who Feels No Pain,” the not-entirely unexpected winner of the Audience Award in the Midnight Madness category at this year’s Toronto Film Festival.

Writer-director Vasan Bala’s wild and wacky yet also warm and fuzzy fable about a resourceful young man who transcends ostensible physical limitations to become a two-fisted, swift-kicking hero likely will prove to be an irresistible crowd-pleaser on the global fest circuit, and in international release on various platforms.

It’s still the same old story, a fight for love and glory, with a decidedly different twist as Surya (Abhimanyu Dassani, son of Bollywood superstar Bhagyashree) grows into adulthood, despite a childhood diagnosis of Congenital Insensitivity to Pain (CIP), and devotes himself to do-gooding with the active support of his tale-spinning grandfather (Mahesh Manjrekar), who enthusiastically exposes his grandson to every available rentable video spotlighting martial-arts mayhem. Of course, young Surya is a Bruce Lee fan from the get-go. But he is even more impressed by the bodacious butt-kicking on display in videos of real-life, one-legged karate warrior Mani (Gulshan Devaiah), whose victories in the face of long odds and when vastly outnumbered are more than enough to inspire Surya when he goes searching for the bad guys responsible for the death of his mother at the hands of street thieves.

Bala generates a fair amount of suspense simply by keeping the audience wondering whether Surya actually is capable of doing all the derring-do that he wants to do. From the start, the movie establishes that this would-be superhero has a debilitating weakness: If he fails to rehydrate on a consistent basis, he will tumble and fall. (He carries water on a backpack, but that’s sometimes not enough.) On the plus side: Surya gets immeasurably strong support from Supri (Radhika Madan), his childhood buddy and present-day sweetie, who just happens to be an advanced student of Mani.

Although the first act indicates that “The Man Who Feels No Pain” will be the saga of Surya’s search-and-destroy pursuit of the thugs he blames for his mom’s death, the movie evolves into something more involving and exciting as it slips into a different groove and becomes a narrative focused on Surya’s fanboy tie to Mani, and his efforts to help his hero deal with the malefactions of Jimmy (also Devaiah), Mani’s twin brother, who doesn’t seem at all grateful that his sibling long ago sacrificed a limb to save his life. Raising the stakes is Supri, whose last-minute decision to help Surya and not repeat her abused mother’s mistakes is one of the movie’s emotional highlights.

Dassani strikes the perfect balance of ingenuousness and ferocity as the hero who repeatedly discovers new ways to hydrate — sometimes deliberate, sometimes providential — to lubricate his heroics. Madan is credible and creditable as Supri, so much so that the final good-versus-evil clash is all the more satisfying. And in his radically different dual roles, Devaiah smoothly traverses extremes with sufficient persuasiveness to make even Nicolas Cage stand up and take notice.

Toronto Film Review: 'The Man Who Feels No Pain'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Midnight Madness), Sept. 14, 2018. Running time: 131 MIN. (Original title: “Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota”)

Production: (India) An RSVP production. Producer: Ronnie Screwvala. Executive producers: Ankur Khanna, Prafull Sharma.

Crew: Director, writer: Vasan Bala. Camera (color): Jay I. Patel. Editor: Prerna Saigal. Music: Karan Kulkarni.

With: Abhimanyu Dassani, Radhika Madan, Mahesh Manjrekar, Gulshan Devaiah. (Hindi, English, Marathi, Malayalam dialogue)

More Film

  • The Favourite Bohemian Rapsody Star is

    The Best Movie Scenes of 2018

    When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene — or maybe the greatest scene — in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining. They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of [...]

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Box Office: 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Soars Toward $35-40 Million Debut

    “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is swinging into theaters on a high note. Sony-Marvel’s latest output is launching to $42 million from 3,813 North American locations in its debut, though other more conservative estimates place that number at $35.5 million. The animated superhero story picked up $12.6 million on Friday, easily leading the pack for the weekend. [...]

  • Ventana Sur : Cinema226 Closes Four

    Cinema226 Announces Four Intl. Co-Productions, Hints at More (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexico’s Cinema226, run by Marco Antonio Salgado and Sam Guillén, is driving into a raft of Mexico, Argentina and Spain co-productions, playing off the current vibrancy of Mexican film production funding and distribution outlets. Among the projects are titles which have been standouts at Ventana Sur’s Blood Window, the next film by Mexico-based Argentine filmmaker [...]

  • Ventana Sur Debates Gender Parity in

    Ventana Sur Debates Gender’s 50/50 in 2020 for Argentina Film Industry

    BUENOS AIRES — Despite recent gains, namely the equality pledge towards 50/50-2020 signed at the Mar del Plata Film Festival on Nov. 12, producer Magalí Nieva, pointed out that no representative from INCAA was present following the apparent resignation of its vice-president Fernando Juan Lima. “We are left without an interlocutor to discuss gender policies [...]

  • Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass

    Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass Attendance, Structural Growth

    BUENOS AIRES — Celebrating its 10th anniversary with a huge hike in attendance to over 4,000 accredited delegates, the 2018 Ventana Sur will go down in history on multiple counts: Sales and pick-ups on movies which combined social comment and entertainment value, increasingly the new foreign-language movie standard; new sections, led by a Proyecta co-production [...]

  • Ventana Sur: Aparicio Garcia Pitches Sports

    Uruguay’s Aparicio Garcia Pitches Sports Journalism Dark Comedy ‘Matufia’

    Uruguay’s Aparicio García impressed with his one-of-kind debut earlier this year, the grindhouse rural mobster comedy “La noche que no se repite,” and the filmmaker has now participated in Ventana Sur’s Proyecta section with his next project, the dark comedy thriller “Matufia.” García’s Isla Patrulla is so far the only producer, but his participation at [...]

  • UGC Distribution Closes on Mariano Cohn’s

    Ventana Sur: UGC Distribution Closes Market Hit ‘4 x 4’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — UGC Distribution has beaten out all other suitors to clinch what had became by Friday morning the most anticipated deal of this year’s Ventana Sur market: All rights to France on Argentine Mariano Cohn’s “4 x 4,” sold by Latido Films and distributed throughout Argentina by Disney. After mounting speculation about which [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content