By Jake Watt
17th March 2018

Surya (Abhimanyu Dassani in his film debut) is born with a rare and awesome medical disorder called congenital insensitivity to pain. When his mother is killed during a robbery, he is raised by the odd couple combination of his regimented father and his mischievous grandfather Ajoba. School life is difficult for a boy who doesn't get hurt (he is instructed by Ajoba to say "ouch" if he thinks something has injured him) and is picked on by bullies.

Surya finds an unlikely ally in his neighbor, Supri (Radhika Madan). At home, Surya learns to tend to his own wounds (he has to wear a portable water tank so he doesn't forget to rehydrate) and binges on a ton of martial arts films on VHS tapes - one of which is a 100-man karate kumite fought by a mysterious one-legged man called Karate Mani (Gulshan Devaiah). Years later, all three characters (all of them are by now master martial artists) unite to take on Karate Mani's evil twin brother, Jimmy (Gulshan Devaiah again), and his criminal gang.


Imagine an action-comedy with influences as diverse as Stephen Chow's 'Kung Fu Hustle', Matthew Vaughan's 'Kick-Ass', Shunichi Nagasaki's 'Black Belt', Chang Cheh's 'Crippled Avengers', Prachya Pinkaew's 'Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior' and M Night Shyamalan's 'Unbreakable'. Surya even seems to gain strength from chugging water like a teetotal Jackie Chan in 'Drunken Master'. In short: Vasan Bala's 'The Man Who Feels No Pain' is a terrific amount of fun.

Madan, a seasoned Bollywood actress, is a perfect match for first timer Dassani, who easily owns leading man status with his dashing good looks, perfect comedic timing and dramatic range.

Amazingly, considering the slickness of the fight scenes, none of the key actors were experienced martial artists. To prepare for the role, Dassani trained in martial arts for three months before the audition, practicing swimming, gymnastics, yoga, freehand training, and stick fighting. Devaiah learned karate while Madan learned mixed martial arts. It's a credit to Eric Jacobus, who action directed the project, and Dennis Ruel, who served as fight coordinator, that every spinning kick and flying knee feels grounded and comedic. Forget wire-work and CGI. These are people, not Marvel superheroes.

It's a credit to Eric Jacobus, who action directed the project, and Dennis Ruel, who served as fight coordinator, that every spinning kick and flying knee feels grounded and comedic. These are people, not Marvel superheroes.

Interspersed between the fight scenes (and sometimes during them) is music composed by Karan Kulkarni and Dipanjan Guha (with lyrics penned by Garima Obrah, Karan Kulkarni, Shantanu Ghatak and Hussain Haidry). The music is another big strength of the film, perfectly complementing all the crazy happenings onscreen. The score becomes more about the essence of the scene, rather than elaborate song-and-dance sequences.

If you think all of this sounds a little ridiculous, you wouldn't be wrong. The film even seems to acknowledge it in a scene when a distressed mother, advising Supri on escaping from an abusive relationship, says, "If you think too much, you'll begin to see logic in the plan." The key is not to think too much about things like how Surya drinking boiling water gives him the power to brawl with a 7-foot tall security guard or to deflect thrown dumbbells with his forearms. Just relax and enjoy the spectacle.

Shot entirely on location in India, 'The Man Who Feels No Pain' is a unique and hugely entertaining surprise from director Vasan Bala, with kinetic, stylish slo-mo fight scenes bolstered by the film's three charismatic leads. Approach it with the right mindset and you will be wildly entertained.

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