Abhimanyu Dassani is one name which we are all very keen on.
Despite being the son of renowned Maine Pyaar Kiya actress Bhagyyashree and actor/producer, Himalaya Dassani, Abhimanyu has not allowed his familial background to become his launchpad into movies.
After initially being an assistant director, Dassani went through countless auditions until he bagged the main lead role in Vasan Bala’s film, Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota (MKDNH).
MKDNH won the ‘People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award’ at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
The movie created history by becoming the first-ever Indian film to play at TIFF’s Midnight Madness segment.
As such, Mard revolves around a young boy Surya (Abhimanyu) who has a rare condition of Congenital Insensitivity to pain meaning he can’t feel pain, and he sets out to learn martial arts and hunt down muggers.
Filme Shilmy caught up with debutant Abhimanyu Dassani to reflect on his experience of working on Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota.
Did you ever expect to make your Bollywood debut in a film like MKDNH?
No, absolutely not. I had no expectations of coming into the industry because I was giving auditions left, right and centre.
When I met Vasan sir, I just had that gut-feeling I really wanted to work with him and he’s a genius director.
It’s also quite an action-packed role in which you did all the stunts yourself. What did your exercise regime consist of in preparation for your character Surya?
I trained for about 6 hours per day for 9 months. I trained in Martial Arts as I had to start from scratch.
I did some meditation during the day, some weapon training and yoga, whilst at night, I would complete my day with a swim… That was for 9 months.
In the last three months before I started shooting, I went into isolation to get into the character.
I didn’t speak to anyone expect my trainers or Vasan sir.
My friends and family were really upset!
Some of my friends are still upset.
That phase was tough in the first few days because we are so used to having conversations and accustomed to our phones.
But it got really interesting as I got the opportunity to introspect myself and about my life, by being able to dig through the insecurities that I have and ponder on them.
It taught me a lot about myself.
I went in weak and came out stronger.
Surya suffers from congenital insensitivity to pain. How do you hope the film will raise more awareness of this condition, rather than trivialise it?
There’s always that question mark whether Surya will break apart his body and everyone around him fears that.
Having said that, this is an entertaining film so we are not trying to be preachy in any way.
The film does bring more than one social issues to light but it is weaved in so nicely by Vasan sir that nothing is in your face and just leaves you with a thought to ponder upon.
This disease is definitely an integral part of the plot, but it is ultimately an action-comedy Bollywood movie.
There’s quite a Zany/masala feel to the film. In what way do you feel the movie will break stereotypes regarding the action-comedy genre in Hindi cinema?
We are not trying to change anyone’s life, but trying to be a part of theirs.
We just want the audience to enjoy the film as it is something that Bollywood hasn’t seen before.
All the action in the movie was done by me and this was my condition to Vasan sir – that I wouldn’t delay the shooting if I got injured.
I’ve broken many parts of my body as this is a 100% impact fight.
If you see me getting punched or kicked, it probably happened in the film.
You can see the impact on the scenes which makes it so different.
It’s interesting how this is another action-oriented role for Radhika Madan post-Pataakha…
Radhika has done a great job and her action has been appreciated too.
Pataakha and Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota are the exact style of films she didn’t want to do when getting into Bollywood.
It’s so funny how she’s attracted this in her life but not wanting to do it (laughs).
There have been comparisons made with Hollywood films like Kick-Ass and Deadpool. Would you say these comparisons are justified?
It’s justified since one has limited knowledge about the film.
Considering that this movie has been in international film festivals, one should know that they wouldn’t show a movie which is anywhere close to a copy of other films.
Comparisons are naturally going to be made because the disease is the same (in Kick-Ass).
But the concept is so different and it is really interesting.
It touches all the Bollywood stereotypes that you would want to see in a film.
At the same time, it’s quite realistic too.
We will your see character dreaming to become a crime-fighting vigilante. What were you most inspired by as a child?
As a child? Oh, various things. I was passionate about football whilst growing up.
I also grew up on a lot of Jackie Chan movies.
So when Vasan sir spoke about this concept, I was like “wow”, I get to act everything I dreamt about whilst I was a child growing up.
Everything about the film was sold to me within that second itself.
I believe that this movie was supposed to happen. Everyone came on board with such passion towards the project.
I got such an opportunity to learn and work with some great actors.
The film has been well-received at the film circuit. How have you ensured that this early acclaim will not make you complacent as an actor?
I became the first and only debutant to ever receive a National film festival award in Indian cinema.
But, I mean, no one really knows that I’ve won the award.
No one really speaks about it (laughs) so I don’t really feel it at all.
It just motivates me to work harder.
All the effort that I’ve put in for all these years it starts to make sense when international Oscar-winning directors say that they’ve seen my work and like it.
These are filmmakers whose movies I have seen multiple times and I look up to them.
So it’s really humbling when that happens.
My goal is to really work harder today than I did yesterday.
Let’s see where that takes me!
The cast of Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota includes Mahesh Manjrekar and Gulshan Devaiah in key roles.
MKDNH releases in cinemas on 21st March 2019.