We are seeing an over saturation of the superhero film market. This year alone we’ve had a superhero film every two months. But those getting superhero fatigue should not worry, for along came an Indian superhero origin story inspired by every action movie on the planet that’s so funny and meta, Deadpool is crying of jealousy.
This is The Man Who Feels No Pain.
We start with a man fighting a group of about 20 people, before the camera freezes and our protagonist exclaims – via voice over narration – that “behind every mind-blowing story, there are some pretty bad decisions” and proceeds to riff on the scene and rewind the movie to tell his origin story. We go back and see the story of how our protagonist, Surya, was born with Congenital Insensitivity to Pain (Google it), a rare condition that makes him, well, feel no pain. After a chain-snatching attack costs Surya’s mom’s life, it is up to his father and grandfather to protect him from harm.
Director Vasan Bala takes a self-aware approach to action movies, as Surya stops his telling of the moment he was born because he was embellishing the details. “Fine. No cheating in flashback” he says. Like in Deadpool, there are constant fourth wall breaks, and references to every movie ever, from Die Hard to Terminator, as Surya grows up obsessed with movies, especially Bruce Lee films.
Driven by a passion for action movies, but a condition that prevents him from doing anything, Surya grows up admiring his favorite hero, Karate Man, who once defeated 100 men despite having only one leg. Years go by, and when Karate Man’s evil brother and his gang of street fighters threatens the community, Surya will reunite with his childhood friend, Supri – who is a badass on her own – and fight the powers of evil.
Abhimanyu Dassani makes his feature debut as Surya, and he’s a star in the making. Dassani sweats charisma, and sells the inner conflict of a man longing to do something that can easily kill him. Not to be left behind, Radhika Madan makes a big impression as the badass Supri, who doesn’t take crap from anyone and is more than able to handle the street fighters.
The weakest part of the film is the plot – of which there isn’t a lot of. The story gets old pretty fast, and the pacing can be spotty at times. Thankfully, the film has a huge sense of humor and self-awareness, which combined with kick-ass action and some killer songs make for a great midnight film. No wonder this already won the people’s choice award at TIFF, having only played 48 hours before voting closed.