"Peddlers" director Vasan Bala is back with a coming-of-age story in quirkily titled "Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota", which is set to have its world premiere at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness segment. Bala, whose first film "Peddlers" remains unreleased despite garnering acclaim in festivals, said the selection of his second film at a prestigious festival like TIFF came as a huge relief.
"It is a huge boost because it is the first Indian film to be selected in that category. I'm a big fan of the segment. It is so challenging for filmmakers with the studio system in Bollywood and elsewhere to make original films.
"It's difficult for fresh new voices to come up in the market because people aren't that receptive. In a place like Midnight Madness, you can see the madness in you. It is very refreshing to be part of that line-up, to be considered mad enough," he told PTI in an interview.
The film revolves around a man with congenital insensitivity to pain, hence the title. Its English title is "The Man Who Feels No Pain".
"My friend's wife is a dentist. She had a patient who did not use anaesthesia because he had this condition. I further researched the condition and watched documentaries to learn more about this condition. I realised it can be a great backdrop to tell a quirky, coming-of-age story.
"Its intended form was more fun than 'Peddlers', which was dark. I wanted to explore a more fun kind of story in the action-comedy genre that was popular in Hong Kong style films. It has not been used in Bollywood for a while."
Bala said the inspiration for the film came from his childhood where films explored the middle-class life.
"We, hopefully, will see India in a new light through this film. It is in the space of the films that we watched while growing up in the '80s and '90s. It is set in the Mumbai and you get to see real spaces. It talks about the middle-class people living in small cities. Though it is a genre film and has martial arts, it is rooted in reality. The story comes from the people I know personally in life."
The director said initially it was a bit difficult to raise funds but Ronnie Screwvala's RSVP came onboard midway to support the film.
"They allowed us to make a film with a new cast which does not happen often. The actors, Bhagyashri's son Abhimanyu Dassani and Radhika Madan -- were discovered through a fair audition process. I wanted to make the most honest film that I could possibly make."
A lot has changed in the last few years in cinema and festival films are no longer considered niche films by viewers, who are looking for fresh content. What still has not changed is that festivals continue to highlight new voices, believes Bala.
"They provide a space for experiment and to challenge the norm. It is not about just one kind of films, this is why the audiences are also becoming more receptive. Today, they won't be hit in the face when you give them a new form that they don't understand initially. There is always a section that's curious and wants to know more. As a filmmaker, one should always push the norms and see how far one can go as."
Toronto International Film Festival 2018 runs from September 6 to 16.