The Man Who Feels No Pain


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

The Man Who Feels No Pain
"If this isn't the funniest film with an open fracture you see this year then you're very lucky indeed."

"Behind every mind-blowing story are some pretty bad decisions" isn't quite the opening - there's a fight to follow, and some bad decisions to get there.

Surya can feel no pain. It's not a superpower but it's close to it. What he has that's really special is drive - not, perhaps, the same pathology as Dredd, but a passion for justice nonetheless. This is fun stuff, proper Bollywood, songs, dances, broken limbs. It drips with references to other films, from video cassettes to posters to forms (33/THX 1138/4EB) to tracksuits. It's got some pretty deep cuts too - Game Of Death is one thing, Gymkata is another entirely.

Copy picture

Eye for Film saw it with a well-entertained audience at Glasgow's 2019 Film Festival, and this is definitely a film to enjoy in a crowd. There were a few moments definitely enhanced by the visceral reaction to carnage on-screen. Not since Cleanskin have I felt so much of an audience wince in unison. There's also laughter, not just from fights, with more than a debt to Jackie Chan and songs with jokey lyrics and then a great line in insults. Fans of Super November will probably recognise a kindred spirit in 'Mumblecore Justice League', but Surya's journey isn't just to kung-fu mastery, but self-discovery.

Helped by his father, grandfather, and childhood sweetheart Supri (Radhika Madan), Surya is a sweet kid who has never properly grown up. Immune not just to physical, but also (it seems) emotional pain, his isolation from the world has left him seeming callous if not callused.

Abhimanyu Dassani is second generation actor - his mother Bhagyashree has Hindi films and plenty of television work. There's a reference to soaps in an airport conversation, and a scheme involving international travel and drugs may well have featured in exactly that form. What I did note is that in the act of translation 'samosa' was rendered as 'fritters' in the subtitles and in a Glaswegian context that's one of the weirdest bits of localisation I've encountered. Triangulating why that's off is an exercise at least as complicated as explaining the name Von Hammersmark-Nandini, one of a number of bits of humour and detail that are lost in the fast flash of text on screen. I also found myself looking up Sosyo - it's a regional local alternative to Vimto that was at one point sealed with a marble like animé favourite Ramune, by which I mean it's a carbonated soft drink. Google it.

Which I say because the film uses it to explain Surya's congenital insensitivity to pain, but his willingness to leave work to the viewer is part of his unreliability as a narrator - except it's unfair to characterise it as such, and while it's more Old Boy than Old Boys it's part and parcel of a tradition that runs through Son Of Rambow. Rewinding and editing are essential to the video experience. While replacing nunchucks with skate trucks is part of the same growing up seen in Mid90s it's something that has escaped Surya, but his story shouldn't escape you.

It's got something for everyone - a cliche drunken master, good advice regarding dehydration, a clichéd villain, an amazing promotional video for a security agency, an amazing 100 man fight, an even more amazing 20 man fight, a secret knife more convenient than Rosa Klebb's, reasonable relationship advice, an office visit with shades of Die Hard and The Raid, more mixed martial arts than you would find in Haywire or Ong-bak and perhaps as many jokes as Balls Of Fury or Wayne's World. As a cross-genre parody it's no Airplane!, but it definitely soars. Swings even, with its musical numbers, fight scenes, its sheer joyfulness. If this isn't the funniest film with an open fracture you see this year then you're very lucky indeed.

Reviewed on: 24 Feb 2019
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The story of a young man who is born without pain receptors and dreams of becoming a martial arts master but takes it all too far.

Director: Vasan Bala

Writer: Santanu Ghatak, Hussain Haidry, Garima Obrah

Starring: Abhimanyu Dassani, Gulshan Devaiah, Radhika Madan

Year: 2018

Runtime: 134 minutes

Country: India


Glasgow 2019

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