GFF19: The Man Who Feels No Pain
Vasan Bala's Indian action-comedy The Man Who Feels No Pain riffs on 80s and 90s action films, not only referencing them but also recreating the feeling of watching them
There are few more marketable commodities right now than pure, uncut nostalgia. Many movies mistake this mystical substance for the mere image of it, cramming themselves full of name-checks and loud “Remember this?!” moments that summon past movie characters and TV shows, but not the feelings attached to them. The genius of The Man Who Feels No Pain is that it is all feeling.
Sure, it makes plenty of nods to Hollywood classics and enjoys its share of self-aware gags – watching someone have their inspiring inner monologue interrupted by a kick to the face is like a PG version of a Deadpool joke – but it never relies on them. Instead, the movie is propelled by the sheer, unbridled excitement it has for fly-kicks and back flips.
Surya (Abhimanyu Dasani) is born without the ability to feel pain. His mother is murdered shortly after his birth, his father is a nervous wreck. To find his place in the world, Surya turns to the “Action” section of his local video store. Inspired by Bruce Lee and John McClane, he dedicates himself to becoming the hero of his own adventure.
Part of the credit for the film’s infectious enthusiasm goes to the soundtrack, which is filled with upbeat, high-tempo jams that give the movie the joyous, thrill-ride feel of, as Surya puts it, “some corny 90s music video”. Surya himself is the film’s other masterstroke, combining the bright-eyed playfulness of a small child or a large dog with the effortless athleticism of an Olympic star. He brings to mind a little of Disney’s Hercules: a harmless bundle of muscles with good intentions and a goofy smile.
Action films and comedies, and especially action-comedies, mostly thrive on being light on their feet. Getting in, slapping a smile on the audience's face, and dashing back out before it has a chance to fade. At a little over two hours, Vasan Bala’s film begins to get a little sluggish by the time it reaches its climactic battle. But it really is like being a kid again: who cares about getting tired when you're having this much fun?
The Man Who Feels No Pain had its UK premiere at Glasgow Film Festival