[VoxSpace Selects] Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota: A Movie That Has It’s moments, But Suffers From Pacing

The Quirky Experiment That Works Sporadically…

If you have been following the indie cinema scene in India for some time, there is one name that keeps popping up, Vasan Bala. He has been a long-time collaborator of Anurag Kashyap, as a writer and assistant director. I have been looking forward to his breakthrough film for a very long time. He made his directorial debut with a small production called ‘Peddlers‘ in 2015. It made rounds in the film festival circuits with rave reviews, but never really got a proper release. He was then supposed to make the Raman Raghav movie as a sequel of sorts to Bombay Velvet, but because of the failure of Bombay Velvet, it had to be shelved. Finally, he was going to get the release for ‘Mard…’ he was looking for. But after watching the film, I was slightly underwhelmed. I am not saying that the film is badly made or that it was a mess, it just did not reach the massive expectations I had for the film.

Mard… Is A Homage To All Things Noir And Cinema

So, let me first begin with what I loved about the film. The film is essentially a love letter to cinema itself. Vasan Bala being the film buff that he is, has packed the film with music, homages, Easter eggs and lines referring to everything from Old Bollywood movies to Hong Kong action to 80’s American action films. Anyone who is a fan of these films will have a lot of fun finding them. The acting in the film is top notch from everyone. Gulshan Devaiah especially stands out with the ‘twin brothers’ roles that he gets to play in the film. He plays these two characters with such conviction and style that you stay mesmerized looking at his antics.

A Technical Masterpiece…

Technically, from a visual and auditory standpoint, the film is pitch perfect. The visuals are snippy, fluidly composed and dazzlingly put together by editor Prerna Saigal. The music is to die for especially ‘Nakhrewali’ and ‘Rappan Rappi Rap’, which are used throughout the film. Finally, the stunts. What can I even say? I am still in awe thinking about what they have pulled off with the budget that they had. Now that I have exhausted my praise for the film, I want to talk about what did not work for me or why I think it will not be the breakout hit that it should have been.

One Gag Too Many…

Here are some of the reasons which made me disappointed with the movie. Firstly, the film is way too self-indulgent with its references and music choices. I just said that I loved the references, I know. What I mean is a lot of these are fun, but when they take precedence over the plot, it becomes too forced. For example, the line “Paap Ko Jalakar Raakh Kar Doonga” is used so many times in the film that it gets way too tiring. The music, while it’s great becomes a problem when it is used so many times, even in serious scenes. One second, you are watching someone die, the next second the protagonist is lost in another slo-mo song sequence. I get the tone the Director was going for, but I just don’t think it was balanced properly.

Mard…Is An Uneven HotchPotch

The movie also takes way too long to get to the point. The film is essentially an origin story, so it spends a lot of time in his childhood. I understand that this is supposed to be the setup, but we don’t even meet the antagonist till the midway point. He packs the first half with so many references and unnecessary repetitive gags that it gets tiring by the time we reach the Interval. Actually, I was impressed with how quickly he established the antagonist when he got there, but where was that pacing in the first half? This makes the film very unevenly paced and leaves you bored in some parts of the film.

Projector Problems…

Now, this has nothing to do with the film-makers. The problem was that the film was shot in an aspect ratio of ‘1: 85 : 1’, while it was being projected in regular cinema-scope. Ironically, I saw ‘Mard..’ at a PVR screen where a little bit of the top and bottom part of the frames got cropped off. The problem with it is that it totally changes the whole composition of the frame, which not only is annoying but also distracting. Hopefully, this does not happen again and the theatre chains try to screen the films as they’ve been intended to be shown.

So, that was my little rant about what I thought of the film. I still believe that it would for film-buffs or people interested in most-modernist deconstructions of genre films. But I don’t believe that ‘Mard..’ will reach the mainstream audience that it needs to, for Vasan Bala to become a bankable director.