Abhimanyu Dassani had completed nearly 40 auditions before he was offered Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota by Vasan Bala. “I did not think I was ready,” Dassani told Scroll.in. “It was because of procrastination and not believing in myself. But Vasan sir made me believe in myself, and he has saved my life.”
Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota is an unusual screen debut by any standards. Dassani plays Surya, who uses his congenital resistance to pain to defeat the evil twin of his martial arts hero. “While the line ‘never seen before’ has often been said far too many times in the industry, in this case you would have never seen a character like this before,” the 29-year-old actor observed.
The action comedy, which also stars Radhika Madan, Gulshan Devaiah, Mahesh Manjrekar and Jimit Trivedi, was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018, where it won the Grolsch People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award. The RSVP Movies production will be released on March 21.
It is never easy for Surya in Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, just like it wasn’t easy for Dassani to conquer his character. He endured four weeks of auditions to get under the skin of Surya, whom he described as an innocent man-child with a black-and-white approach to the world. “He is not your typical hero, he has his flaws, insecurities and shortcomings,” Dassani said about Surya. “Each and every person will be able to find a part of themselves in Surya. When you are a child, you have this dream of having superpowers. Surya is that child.”
Apart from training in martial arts and the use of weapons, Dassani’s preparations included conversations with Bala about action films and martial arts. “Vasan sir and I spoke about the hundreds of films that we have seen and talked about how Surya would react if he were in those films,” Dassani said. “For instance, Surya is a lot like Peter Parker in Spider Man.” Jack Black’s Po from the animated comedy Kung Fu Panda was another reference. “Po is such a black-and-white character, who believes he can achieve something,” Dassani said.
Dassani is, like several of his peers, a second-generation actor. His mother is Bhagyashree, best known for starring with Salman Khan in the 1989 blockbuster Maine Pyar Kiya. Dassani, however, says he has preferred to make his own.
“I have been independent from my family from the age of 16,” he said. “The reason I avoid putting on the tag of being Bhagyashree’s son is not because I am scared of the judgement over nepotism. It is because I don’t deserve it yet. It is surreal how much Maine Pyar Kiya has achieved. It’s a 30-year-old film, and people still recognise her as Suman. I am still scratching the surface.”
Dassani earned a degree in finance and worked with a few start-ups before enrolling for an acting course at the Lee Strasberg Theater & Film Institute in New York City. Formal education opened his eyes to a new world, Dassani said. “It was a fantastic process,” he recalled. “I got to train with some unbelievable teachers there. My class had 14 students, and each of them was from a different country. One of the teachers there was Al Pacino’s classmate.”
Dassani’s training prepared him for his debut, as well what he wants from his career: “I am looking to have fun and roles that challenge me.”