Vasan Bala’s latest venture, The Man Who Feels No Pain, marks a huge milestone, in my view, for martial arts action. It’s a production from a major company halfway around the world, and one with a director who knows talent when he sees it.
He saw it in his cast, and it certainly helps that he saw it in the requisite stunt talents he needed. That includes Eric Jacobus and Dennis Ruel, and it wasn’t just whim decision making as anyone who follows the genre knows at least half of what Jacobus and Ruel are capable of.
This was mainly my inspiration for wanting to see this film so badly since it began hitting festivals last year. Unfortunately I had to wait like everyone else until it hit Netflix, and despite having to see it on such a small screen, at the very least I can attest that it is very much worth seeing.
The cast looks as fierce as one would hope for a film of this kind, and with the likes of Abhimanyu Dassani, Radhika Madan and Gulshan Devaiah doing their characters worlds of justice between the action and drama. It’s also Bala’s Peddlers star, Devaiah, who pulls a brillaint dual performance as his own evil twin.
Surya (Dassani) is a young man born with a rare congenital insensitivity to pain. While forced to live a strict regimen under his father’s supervision in order to stave off self-harm, Surya’s lifelong love for action and martial arts movies drives his inspiration to vanquish evil and beat up goons.
Not only does that same passion not only intertwines his fate with one of his childhood heores, Mani (Devaiah), a one-legged karate champion, it effectively reunites Surya with long lost childhood companion, Supri (Madan), a proficient street fighter adopted off the street by Mani one evening after running away from home.
Surya struggles to reacquaint with Supri who has her own set of problems to worry about. At the same time, the two soon find themselves at the center of a family rift set years earlier between Master Mani and his crimeboss twin brother, Jimmy.
When Jimmy steals Mani’s family heirloom in a violent clash, the three set off on a whirlwind adventure to even the score. The competition is a little tough though, and victory will ultimately depend on whether or not Surya can keep his disorder in check and his body hydrated long enough to stay in the fight.
Bala’s The Man Who Feels No Pain serves as a love letter to a bygone era of cinema from the very top – a perfect template to help service the story about a boy who grew up loving action movies from the last four decades as means to learning how to fight and fend off bullies.
Actor Mahesh Manjrekar is the heart and soul of the story surrounding Surya and his father, played by (Jimit Trivedi); He’s ultimately the only one giving Surya the guidance he needs away from his father’s concern, including teaching him how to recognize physical damage and what it means to feel hurt or injured.
Actress Madan’s character, Supri, grows up to be a no-nonsense badass under the stewardship of her surrogate father, Master Mani, played by Devaiah. The connecting dots therein between these characters is that each of them are trying to find their way in life with each of their personal lives.
It all comes full circle in The Man Who Feels No Pain as we live the story through Surya’s eyes. His character is the very childlike essence he lives into young adulthood; he’a the hero of his own story – on a mission, dogmatic in his ideals and nearly unstoppable. He’s basically Mikey leading his fellow Goonies on a search for pirate treasure. He’s Leroy on a quest for The Glow. He’s Po, outclassed by the furious five until he he can take on
As far as Bollywood goes, The Man Who Feels No Pain is far from typical. The action is solid, stylishly shot and edited between select slow motion cuts, and inclusive in featuring the shots that count, and with no wires whatsoever.
Dassani and Radan invoke sharp some of the sharpest acumen you’ll see when it comes to their sequences, and you’ll get a kick out of seeing Devaiah star opposite himself next to playing a one-legged Kyokushin fighter. Even local stunt performer and martial arts choreographer/consultant Prateek Parmar even gets in on the action for a nice little third-act sweetner opposite Dassani.
I thought long and hard about writing a review for this film since so many have been written. I almost didn’t, though seeing this has effectively become the next evolution of indie action for the likes of Jacobus and Ruel who I’ve been a fan of since the early millenium, it felt good to at leastaa document my thoughts on this.
The last Indian film I reviewed on this website was Bang Bang starring Hrithik Roshan several years ago. That film was actually the first Indian film I’ve ever watched from top-to-bottom and it’s one of my favorite movies by far next to Bahubali 1 & 2.
Indeed, my Indian filmgoing list is small but assuredly growing, and it felt pretty darn good to add The Man Who Feels No Pain to the list. I also wouldn’t mind seeing our cast back in action for future action movies, or even sequel – that’s how fun this movie was, and additionally with Bala who clearly loves the genre so much that he gave it the care it needed, I hope we’ll see more from him.
A mix of rousing coming of age comedy, tragedy, romance, a touch of Fred Astaire and kinetic martial arts action without the frills, The Man Who Feels No Pain certainly feels like something special. And you know what? I guess it is.