Vasan Bala’s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (The Man Who Feels No Pain) won an award under the ‘Midnight Madness’ category at the recently concluded Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Bala, who attended the screening of the film, along with the film’s leads, Radhika Madan and Abhimanyu Dassani, said that the film is a tribute to the movies from the 80s.
Its protagonist is a man who was born with a rare disease that allows him to feel no pain at all. He embarks on a path of vigilantism. The film was the first Indian production to be screened under the popular Midnight Madness category that shows action and horror films at 11:59 PM every day of the festival. The film beat Assassination Nation and Halloween to bag the award.
Accepting the award, Bala said:
“The last time I was called upon stage was when I was in fourth grade and it was arts and craft… I cut cardboards and glued them together… Similar feeling… I think it is a similar story. First you write the script and then you are never meant to make the film… Once you make the film, then you are not meant to be in the festival, once you are meant to be in the festival, you are not meant to finish it in time for screening. That’s my life… I have never meant to be anywhere…thanks TIFF for changing it.”
Incidentally, Bala’s Peddlers also was screened under a different category at the TIFF in 2012.
Meanwhile, Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly (one half of the Farrelly brothers behind outrageous comedies such as Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary) and starring Mahershala Ali, Viggo Mortensen walked away with the festival’s top award, beating worthy opponents such as Roma (Directed by Alfonso Cuaron) and Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk.
The award winner is selected by the audience at the TIFF. Green Book is based on a road trip taken in the Jim Crow era by musician Don Shirley. The African American was not too comfortable travelling to the American South and so hired an Italian American driver, Tony Vallelonga, as his driver for the journey. The film proved to be a hit with the audience. Interestingly, the TIFF awardee is tipped to be an Oscar contender. Room, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, La La Land are some of the movies which have gone on to gain Oscar recognition after having notched up TIFF wins early on in the campaign.
This year’s TIFF initiative to boost under-represented films, filmmakers and critics proved to be a hit, as well. Nearly 34 per cent of the 343 films screened at TIFF were directed or co-directed by women, according to the festival organisers. The organisation also floated it’s #ShareHerJourney iniative to bring focus to the lack of available opportunities for female voices in the industry. Actors Geena Davis, Mia Kirshner delivered lectures about the importance of equality in film at a rally held in Toronto during the festival.
Some female filmmakers walked away with awards, as well. Among them, Sandhya Suri received the Best International Short film award for The Field, while Katherine Jenkovic bagged an award for her Canadian film, Roads In February.