Pop-culture references fly thick and fast in Vasan Bala‘s Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, in which a man whose medical condition makes him impervious to pain sets out to catch the chain-snatchers that killed his mother. The film’s title itself is a reference to a recurring Amitabh Bachchan dialogue in Mard (1985) – “Jo mard hota hai usko dard nahin hota hai”. Bala says these references weren’t curated, but came about organically. “We didn’t want to force-fit anything into the movie. Things kept getting added even while we were shooting.”
Here’s everything I spotted, and many more that he pointed out:
EVERY MOVIE REFERENCED
Every movie Surya watches: Egged on by his grandfather (Mangesh Manjrekar), Surya (Abhimanyu Dasani) becomes obsessed with martial arts movies, watching them on VHS and mimicking the actors’ moves. Here are the titles that pop up on his shelf or in his player: Geraftaar (1985), Secret Rivals (1976), Return of The Street Fighter (1974), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), The Crow (1994), Gymkata (1985), The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (1978), Game of Death (1972).
Every movie poster spotted: City Hunter (1993), The Protector (2005), Bad Taste (1987), Seven Samurai (1954), Rambo (2008)
Aaj Ka Goonda Raj (1992): Surya’s parents and grandfather are at the theatre watching the ‘It’s A Challenge’ song from this Ravi Raja Pinisetty film moments before he is born.
The Terminator (1984): Surya briefly toys with the idea of his mother defeating a Terminator before deciding to tell the audience the real story of his birth.
Drunken Master (1978): ‘Jaise Drunken Master ka wine, Bruce Lee ka nanchaku, waise tera water backpack,’ says Surya’s grandfather, cautioning him against getting dehydrated.
Kung Fu Panda (2008): Unable to recall whether he should address the martial arts master as ‘Karate Man’ or ‘Shaolin Master’, an overwhelmed Surya blurts out ‘Shifu’ instead.
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004): “The shot of Surya and Karate Mani lying on the ground outside the Country Liquor Bar is a reference to Joel and Clementine lying on the ice in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind,” says Bala.
Paap Ko Jalakar Raakh Kar Doonga (1988): Surya’s catchphrase is the title of this Govinda movie.
Pulp Fiction (1994): Jimmy sipping his drink from a plastic cup is a callback to Jules’ (Samuel L. Jackson) drinking from the Big Kahuna Burger cup in the Quentin Tarantino film, says Bala.
Mother India (1957): “Aisi hi hoon, Mother India banne ki koshish nahi kar rahi hoon,” says Supri’s mother, referencing the famous self-sacrificial mother played by Nargis.
Shahenshah (1988): While Surya is fixated on his role as the (super)hero of his own story, others don’t quite see him the same way. He gets called ‘Matunga Ka Feroz Khan’ and ‘Sasta Shahenshah’.
Kaminey (2009): Surya hums a brief snatch of ‘Dhan Te Nan’ from this Vishal Bhardwaj film when he gives his grandfather a peek at his new costume.Big Trouble In Little China (1986): Karate Mani’s hairstyle was inspired by that of Kurt Russell’s character’s in this film.
THX 1138 (1971): The (fictional) guideline under which a gun can be obtained at the workplace, cited in the pre-climax sequence, is named after George Lucas’s first feature film.
Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012): “Karate Mani ka, Supri ka, sabka badla lega Surya,” he says during the final showdown, referencing the iconic dialogue from Anurag Kashyap’s film.
Rocky (1976): Is any movie about underdogs really complete without a reference to Sylvester Stallone’s seven-film franchise? Surya says he feels like the boxer towards the end of the climactic fight.
ALL THE COMICS REFERENCED IN THE FILM
Kick-Ass: Jimmy refers to Supri (Radhika Madan) as Hit Girl, from this Marvel series.
Iron Man: Surya’s father calls himself ‘Jatin Stark’ while sporting what he calls his ‘Iron Man’ look – a three-piece suit and a beard reminiscent of Robert Downey Jr’s character.
EVERY TV SHOW REFERENCED IN THE FILM
WWE: The film’s final showdown is titled ‘Vidhya Bhavan Royal Rumble’.
Narcos: “Karate Mani’s sidekick is named Pablo because Ratheesh, who played the role and is also the film’s production designer, is a huge Narcos fan,” says Bala. Which brings us to…
WHAT THE CHARACTERS’ NAMES REFERENCE
Vaastav (1999): “Mahesh Manjarekar’s name in the film is Raghunath Namdeo Shivalkar, which was Sanjay Dutt’s name in Vastaav. It appears on the nameplate on the door,” says Bala.
Inglorious Basterds (2009): When Surya’s father eventually remarries, his new wife, Nandini, introduces herself as Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger’s character in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds) during their vows. “There’s no real meaning to it. It’s just that the name had such a kick to it in the sound design. Who’s going to read the subtitles?” asks Bala.
Kundan Shah: The official who conducts the marriage is named after the Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983) director.
Thalapathi (1991): Surya himself is named after Rajinikanth’s character in this Mani Ratnam movie.
Karate Mani: Gulshan Devaiah’s character was named after a real-life action director from the South, says Bala.
Michael Madana Kama Rajan: The twins’ father, Michael Kamaraj, is named after the Kamal Haasan film in which the superstar plays a quadruple role. “Should’ve named someone in the film Madan. Missed opportunity,” says Bala.
WHAT THE CHARACTERS’ CLOTHES REFERENCE
Die Hard (1988): The ‘Now I Have A Machine Gun Ho Ho Ho’ banyan that Surya wears early in the film has the same slogan as a sweater spotted in this Bruce Willis movie.
Raid 2 (2014): The first time we see the adult Supri, she’s wearing a white dress and a brown leather jacket – the same costume Julia Estelle’s character Hammer Girl wears in this Indonesian action movie.
Dil Se (1998): When the young Surya runs away from home and tries to board a train, he’s wearing a red sweater similar to the one Shah Rukh Khan sports in the opening scene of Mani Ratnam’s film – a stylistic choice that came about during the shoot, says Bala.
Apna Desh (1972): The red goggles that Jimmy wears come from the Rajesh Khanna song ‘Duniya Mein Logo Ko’ in this Jambu film. “While Rajesh Khanna wore a red outfit with green-tinted glasses, here Jimmy wears green or blue suits with red-tinted glasses,” says Bala.
Longstreet: Surya’s maroon tracksuit and blue shoes reference the clothes worn by Bruce Lee in his TV series.
EVERY LITERARY REFERENCE IN THE FILM
The Jungle Book (1894): Rudyard Kipling’s characters become stand-ins for playful insults. Surya’s father says he wished for a normal son but got Mowgli instead. In turn, his father asks if Surya calls him ‘bagheera’ now.
Rumi: The 13th century Persian poet becomes fodder for playful banter between Surya and his childhood friend Supri, who takes digs at people for being unable to even sneeze without mentioning him.
Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves: Ajoba teasingly calls his son-in-law Ali Baba when he’s late to a meeting with his fiancée.
WHAT THE MUSIC REFERENCES
Khel Khel Mein (1986): “Ek main aur ek tu. Dono miley is tarah…Yeh toh hona hi tha,” plays early on in the film when a henchman trips and falls.
New Delhi (1956): A sequence of Supri taking on a gang of neighbourhood creeps is set to ‘Nakhrewaali’ from the Kishore Kumar starrer.
In ‘Rappan Rappi Rap’: Back To The Future (1985), Big Trouble In Little China (1986), Enter the Dragon (1973), The Jungle Book, Karan Arjun (1995) Pokemon, Star Wars, Pacman, Bata shoes, Nirma washing powder – all get shoutouts in the song. “Surya’s been in isolation for so long that in his head, he’s still a kid. All these 90s references, karate films and retro stuff are what his world is about,” Karan Kulkarni said in an earlier interview.
In ‘Life Mein Fair Chance Kiska?’: The lyric ‘Show me the Mani’ is a desi twist on a Tom Cruise line in Jerry Maguire (1996). Bruce Lee and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966) are also referenced.
In ‘Shaolin Sky’: American hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan and Japanese mafia members (the Yakuza) get namechecked in this song.
Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth: Clichéd psychopath Jimmy (Gulshan Devaiah) accuses clichéd Kung Fu master Mani (also Gulshan Devaiah) of being too “senti” because he’s a Kamal Haasan fan, suggesting he should’ve been a fan of Rajinikanth instead.
Michael Schumacher: “Gaadi zor se chal rahi hai, Schumacher?” Ajoba asks his son-in-law.
The 27 Club: The term refers to a group of popular artistes, such as Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and Jimi Hendrix, who died at the age of 27. Surya alludes to it, saying he could’ve achieved “legit status” had he only died at that age.