Tucked away in the nook and crannies of the city life of Mumbai is a guy who dreams of becoming an actor. But how different is he from the lot? Abhimanyu Dassani is looking at a bright future in Bollywood after his Toronto film festival-featured ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota‘ has received accolades, ringing bells of celebration in the world of cinema.
The boy-next-door with his impish charm has shown great promise through his first performance on the big screen. While most of his contemporaries would hesitate from an unconventional debut film like ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’, he stands out for the same choice.
Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota won Grolsch People’s Choice Midnight Madness section award at TIFF after beating big-budget Hollywood franchises like ‘Halloween, and ‘Predator’
The Hindi-language action-comedy film stars Abhimanyu as the lead and is written and directed by Vasan Bala and produced by Ronnie Screwvala. ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’ (The Man Who Feels No Pain) also stars Radhika Madan, Gulshan Devaiah, Mahesh Manjrekar and Jimit Trivedi. The film premiered at Toronto International Film Festival to much critical and commercial acclaim and portrays a story about a man who literally feels no pain. It became the first ever Indian film to be selected for the section of the Midnight Madness at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) 2018, ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’ won Grolsch People’s Choice Midnight Madness section award after beating big-budget Hollywood franchises like ‘Halloween, and ‘Predator’.
In a conversation with the young actor, Abhimanyu reveals what it’s like landing a debut role that complemented his passion for acting and his love for the camera.
“Everyone has a child inside them; whether you’re six or as old as sixty. The child in you has a dream. ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota‘ tells you to give that dream a chance. My role in the film is very interesting. The character I play, Surya, is socially awkward, very black-and-white kind of a person; it’s either wrong or right for him. He wants to achieve everything that he has dreamt of as a child.”
It took every single day of about 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the evening for 9 complete months to get into the character for this film.
Abhimanyu talks about how he ended up working on this particular project,
“I was auditioning for films when someone showed me a twitter post which read that they were looking for this 20-24-year-old new face to launch in a film. As I recall, it was the monsoons of 2016 and I went on to give an audition in the casting office. I reached the office at about 9 o’clock, but sadly, didn’t get a chance till about 6 in the evening. I went back home disappointed and this continued for the next couple of days. Soon after, I had gone for my martial arts classes, where my trainer got a call saying that this film is auditioning any person who knows acting and martial arts. Coincidently, I had joined the martial art classes about a month ago and my trainer suggested, “Bhai aap jao, apko acting ata hain (Brother, you know acting. Give it a try)”, and I responded, “Do baar jaa chuka hoon but I didn’t get a chance (I have tried twice, but I didn’t get a chance)”. He further added, “Nahi nahi, aap jao main connect karta hoon (You give it another go; I’ll connect you)” and that’s how I finally got my first audition. The process took a month. During the course, I spent a lot of time interacting with Vasan sir. We shared a great bond, and I knew I wanted to work with him.”
Though Dassani does have a film background, he has a very humble presence and does not tower over others. Son of yesteryear actress Bhagyashree and Himalaya Dassani, he carries the acting gene forward with immense hardwork and humilty. Rather, it’s when you start interacting with him that you begin to feel the magnetism: in a sort of deep, boyish drawl. He confesses,
“I’m still learning martial arts, and I particularly trained myself for this film. It took every single day of about 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the evening for 9 complete months to get into the character for this film. Alongside, I’ve also done gymnastics, staff training, yoga, swimming, and a lot of reading and research. I read a lot about human biology and anatomy focusing on injuries, pain and rehab. The last three months of the shoot was spent in solitude. This means I didn’t speak to anyone socially, not even my own family members, other than the team that I was coordinating with. That’s what it took to prepare for this role.”
When he is not acting, Abhimanyu is spontaneous and charismatic; merry but attentive. He adds that the limelight has been an “amazing discovery”.
“You didn’t hear about me before the release of the trailer. You didn’t know I existed. I have not been a part of this industry, and I have consciously stayed away. I finished my major in finance and I was working. I decided to give acting a shot at some point in my life and ever since, I have worked very hard. Fortunately, there have been people who have believed in me as much as I believed in myself. I’m particularly grateful to Vasan sir, Anurag Kashyap and Ronnie Screwvala who have given me this opportunity. Many people have questioned me if I don’t use the film background to detest nepotism and if this works as my marketing strategy. This is no marketing strategy, to be honest. I have made conscious choices and all of this has just been an amazing discovery.
You didn’t hear about me before the release of the trailer. You didn’t know I existed. I have not been a part of this industry, and I have consciously stayed away.
He counts director Vasan Bala as a support system and an adviser, something he’s aware not all kids with Bollywood pursuits can dream to have.
“He is a genius, and he is absolutely amazing at his craft but more than that, he is an amazing human being. The whole set was so calm and the way he got the whole team to work together with synchronicity was remarkable. He has the fine ability to understand you and make him understood. He is not just my director but also my friend, my guide and my mentor. He is someone I can call at four in the morning. We share that kind of a bond.”
You know you’re onto a good thing when your debut film wins the People’s Choice Award at a film festival that is as grand as TIFF. The debut actor says that the film’s winning big at TIFF, 2018 truly validated his pursuit. Though the theatrical release dates are yet to be declared, he appends, “As the trailer suggests, it is a very unique film. It is not the traditional debut film that you would see an actor get into. It has not an easy character to play but has been very interesting nevertheless.”
Dassani also talks about the bond he shares with his mother, Bhagyashree.
“I think I have instilled certain characteristics from my mother. She is extremely hardworking and hard work, I’ve learnt, will never let you down. I’m very proud of her and I’m proud of ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’. There are people who recognise her as “Suman” even after 30 years. I think that’s unbelievable and a matter of pride for me. It is incredible how a fictional character lives in the heart of so many people decades later. If someone can look at me on the street and can recognise me as “Surya”, I think that in itself will be a big achievement for me.”
I’m very proud of her and I’m proud of ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’. There are people who recognise her as Suman even after 30 years…If someone can look at me on the street and can recognise me as “Surya”, I think that in itself will be a big achievement for me.
Dassani says that he is confident about the future and quite sure about the roadmap ahead. When asked about the filmmakers he wishes to work with, he replies,
“One director that I would particularly love to work with is Ayan Mukherjee. I think he is fantastic. His work speaks for himself. I want to be a part of films that will leave an impact. I want the films that I do to transcend the barriers of time, irrespective of genre. For me, it’s always quality over quantity and I would not do random films just for the sake of it. The whole new world of digitalization is astounding and as long as the work is good, the medium does not matter. Now’s the time for the passionate souls.”
Not every newcomer in the industry dares to sail their ship in uncharted waters and walk an extra sceptical pathway, Dassani chose to take the risk and have discovered the successful experience of such a choice.