By Prarthana Mitra
Completed just in time for the 43rd Toronto International Film Festival, Vasan Bala’s film Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota premiered towards the end of the Midnight Madness section and bagged the Grolsch Viewers’ Choice Award on Sunday.
Beating Sam Levinson’s Assassination Nation and David Gordon Green’s Halloween, Bala’s film presented by Ronnie Screwala’s RSVP production went on to win top honours at the prestigious film festival, often seen as a litmus test for the Academy Awards. “It is a huge boost because it is the first Indian film to be selected in that category. I’m a big fan of the segment,” Bala told TOI ahead of the premiere.
Got to take a pic with Vasan Bala who wrote and directed #TheManWhoFeelsNoPain, and Radhika Madan (Supri). TMWFMP won best film in the Midnight Madness Programme.#TIFF18 #SHWHPodTIFF pic.twitter.com/iOG6LlZwUO
— Carolyn 'Black Girls & Women Matter' Hinds. (@CarrieCnh12) September 16, 2018
Bala’s first film Peddlers also garnered international acclaim but remains unreleased. The quirkily titled Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota stars newcomers Radhika Madan opposite Abhimanyu Dassani as the young protagonist who suffers from a congenital disorder that makes him incapable of feeling any pain. He consequently becomes the perfect vigilante figure who intervenes in violent fights and brawls without worrying about being hurt.
— वरुण (@varungrover) September 15, 2018
The Man Who Feels No Pain, as it is known to the English audience, derives its inspiration from a dentist friend of Bala’s wife Prerna Saigal (editor of the film), who once had a patient immune to pain. Besides, Bala was also keen on rooting the film in the middle-class values portrayed in the films of his childhood. “It is in the space of the films that we watched while growing up in the ’80s and ’90s. It is set in the Mumbai and you get to see real spaces. It talks about the middle class people living in small cities. Though it is a genre film and has martial arts, it is rooted in reality. The story comes from the people I personally know in life,” he said in an interview with TOI.
This led Bala to explore the story in the vein of Hong Kong-style action comedies, which hadn’t been used in Bollywood for a while. Mard Ko Dard… is a Bollywood film through-and-through but refuses to play into prevalent stereotypes and tropes. Radhika’s character, for instance, is also prominent who fights alongside the titular mard, and the film makes use of pastiche, gore and kitsch in youthful parody.
London-based director Sandhya Suri also bagged the IWC International Short Films Award for her short film The Field, which presents a refreshingly layered portrait of Lalla, a north Indian peasant woman, who struggles to a assert her choices and rights in a conservative setting and dares to pursue a life different from the one she’s been granted. “It is amazing that this film about a woman in rural India has been recognised in this way in TIFF,” she is reported to have said via a recorded message from the UK.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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