What is Cinema? You could be a hardcore Bollywood fan, a Bruce Lee Boy or a Sci-Fi Geek, or all of the above. No matter how different these genres are, the ideologies that create them, the themes they touch upon and most importantly, the audience that consumes those, find their hearts in the same place.
From the opening sequence, it is quite clear that the movie is somewhat meta, somewhat fantastical (yes I know these two words together sound absurd) but MKDNH celebrates absurdity in the most delightful of ways. And as you get immersed in this piece of cinema (yes it is not just story, it’s cinema with a chef’s kiss, or let us cinephiles come up with a corresponding term like- “director’s clap”) you realise absurdity is the point of appeal of Cinema. It takes the experiences we have lived or we yearn for, and put them in premises we couldn’t have guessed until we saw it on the big screen, and makes it believable or at least pleasurable with such audio-visual tools giving a sense of Euphoria.
-Yes I want to change the political system and I think I can...
-Okay so assume a position in local politics or join IAS to prove your worth...
-Naah make me CM for one day and I will show you.
*cue intense brooding BGM with some gibberish and everything seems possible. (NAYAK fans unite)
But where does it all fall relevant in discussion to the film in question? The film’s title and basic plot of a man literally not feeling any pain formed an impression on my mind of it being a satire on toxic masculinity and I liked it instantly. What I didn’t realise was I was in for a wholesome tribute to cinema in the most funniest of ways possible. We listen to the title and Bollywood’s biggest living legend comes to our mind. The protagonist’s name- “Surya” is to Tollywood what “Vijay” is to Bollywood. The action style of Martial Arts fused in with comedic sequences remind you of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan flicks. The use of visual graphics to turn down the gore or change the tone of boring redundant sequences (like that of the trio climbing down Jimmy’s building) is a perfect reverence to the comic-book style action sequences. We also have the “meet cute” of adult Surya and Supri, with BGM of a Kishore Kumar classic after years of forceful separation. But most importantly, every action of our super idealistic and unapologetically filmy hero has its intention founded in the clichés of a Bollywood flick, especially the reason for his revenge on the chain-snatchers.
After borrowing so many elements from different classics, one cannot expect one film to work. But it does. Brilliantly. With so many fantastical elements, all it needs is the taste of realism to tie everything together. This realism lies in the self-aware storytelling, and in little but profound moments of norm-breaking when it comes to tropes. Sure, Sumit and Supri had a meet-cute to “Nakhrewali” by Kishore Kumar, but it happens amidst the heroine karate chopping some goons who tried to kidnap an unconscious woman while the hero enjoys the show. Our heroine also dances a self-discovery “Dancin in the rain” kind of dance but she does so while gulping an I-pill just two days after meeting the hero. In a Kishore Kumar universe, the best that could happen with a girl who’s eloped her house and spent the night at the guy’s place is her getting a “Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si” but not in the real world. In reality, you form connections and not conditions when it comes to love, and let the rest of the stuff happen. Surya is our “Superhero” with banging entries, and no weapon seems to have any effect on him, but that’s not his superpower but his weakness and the most probable cause for destruction. Our superhero’s power lies in the foresight of his mentor- his grandfather and his commitment to medical science and his father’s humility and grounded beliefs when it comes to facing the world. Yes, the “hero” and his father grow distant after the mother’s death, but the distance isn’t founded in father’s apathy to Surya’s unrealistically courageous (justifiably stupid) ideals, but in his real-life experience that demands just as resilience, if not more to raise a motherless child with a rare condition of body and a spoilt condition of the heart. We cannot relate to Surya’s crazy strength that comes from his condition but to his constant struggles and screw-ups and the void that Supri’s separation causes. He longs for a sense of belonging in the world that he only remembers for chain-snatchers and abusive family members, costing him his mother and Supri. Jimmy personifies both and becomes the ultimate villain to defeat. It’s not the unnecessary need for heroics, but the basic human tendency of defending your personal traumas through others and assuring yourself that we are safe from the vices of our past that becomes the driving force for Surya’s journey. Every movie has a few checkboxes to cover, a kind of audience to entertain but this movie is a prime example of no matter how much we try to differentiate ourselves from others, decide on our favourite genres, we will never know which story, which film, which character, which scene hits us and how. Before we know it, we are immersed in a movie we never thought we would watch. Do we really have a time traveller in between us? God knows. Back to the future for us was about an estranged couple finding their destiny of love through their destiny of marriage, their future child. Two siblings conniving to bring their parents back together in The Parent Trap- that doesn’t sound like sci-fi to me but the emotion does sound similar. Back to the Future was also about the comfort we found in balance and status quo when we just wished Marty to reach back in time on time. We shared the same emotion when we anxiously waited for Harry and Hermione to save Buckbeak and Sirius and return to the hospital wing and I can say with utmost certainty that Harry Potter for sure isn’t science fiction.
I am not saying Mard ko Dard Nahi Hota is a flawless film. But if someone gave me a choice to watch it in a full packed theatre or 3 months of free Netflix (where I can watch it n number of times), I will choose to watch it once in the theatre. And I am an unemployed “artist”. Watch it for the love, watch it for the Mumbai crime, watch it for the family or watch it for the action, but most importantly, watch it for Jimmy, (Gulshan Devaiah) the eccentric villain who owns the entire combat sequence. But watch it once, over a cup of tea, remembering the good ol’ days of the ’90s where Movies were made from the heart for the heart.