Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota is heavily influenced by the B-grade action films of the world: Abhimanyu Dassani
The actor talks about his debut film Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hot, which recently won the People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award
Congenital insensitivity to pain meets martial arts B-film? In Vasan Bala’s upcoming film, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (MKDNH), debutant Abhimanyu Dassani plays the readily wacky character of Surya, a self-proclaimed superhero who — as the title makes clear — feels no pain. Son of Maine Pyar Kiya actor Bhagyashree, the 28-year-old newbie had auditioned for his debut role "for fun", having no clue he’d be selected for the part. At the recently concluded 43rd Toronto International Film Festival, MKDNH won the People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award — a first for an Indian film. The film’s trailer, which was released on August 17, was particularly praised for revitalising the action-comedy genre with freshness and a mock-slapstick tone.
Speaking about his early life and how films "happened" to him, Abhimanyu says, "I grew up in Mumbai. In school, I took part in dramatics but it was nothing major. I was more interested in business — I studied marketing and finance, and created my own startups, including an event management company, a football turf, a scrap metal business and a sweet-corn import chain. In 2010, just to get some experience, I assisted director Rohan Sippy on Dum Maaro Dum, which marked my initiation into films. I later attended a three-month filmmaking course at New York Film Academy and also studied method acting at Lee Starsberg Theatre and Film Institute."
In 2016, as part of his experimental business ventures, Abhimanyu had started a martial arts school in Mumbai when his academy received a casting call for MKDNH. Instead of sending out his students, Abhimanyu auditioned for the role himself and got selected after a gruelling, month-long process. What excited him most about the project, the actor reveals, was the underlying philosophy of the film. "MKDNH is heavily influenced by the B-grade action films of the world. My character, Surya, has grown up on those films and wants to adapt their philosophy into real life. I watched a lot of kung fu films to get into his head. We all have a six-year-old inside us who still thinks he is a superhero. Surya is a manifestation of that guy."
Recalling his prep process for the action-heavy role, Abhimanyu says, "Fortunately for me, the film kept getting postponed. So I got the time to practise martial arts for three hours in the mornings and evenings. In between, I did swimming, meditation and studied biology. I trained in mixed martial arts, taekwondo, boxing, gymnastics and some lathi-work. There was also a lot of body-weight training to get into shape."
Asked about the sort of films he would like to explore in the future, the debutant replies, "Honesty is what attracts me, whether it's in world cinema or mainstream Hindi cinema. For instance, Vicky Donor is a very honest film, and so is Munna Bhai M.B.B.S or Vaastav or Maine Pyar Kiya. As long as your work is real and heartfelt, people will accept and appreciate you. Genres don’t matter."