TORONTO: Writer-director Vasan Bala's sophomore vehicle "Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota" (The Man Who Feels No Pain) made history here at the stroke of midnight on Friday, becoming the first-ever Indian film to play in the Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness, a section devoted to genre and shock cinema.
"I grew up watching films with audiences like you," the Mumbai filmmaker told the packed auditorium before the screening at the Ryerson University auditorium here.
"Having my film screen here for such an audience is a dream come true."
Vasan Bala was on the stage with his two leads, Abhimanyu Dassani and Radhika Madan, both Bollywood newcomers.
(video: TIFF trailers YouTube)
Setting the stage for the screening, the ebullient TIFF Midnight Madness programmer Peter Kuplowsky said: "Ever since I began programming for the section, I had an important goal: I had to include a genre film from India."
Kuplowsky exhorted the audience "to seek out Bollywood genre films" because they represent "one of the most exciting cinemas in the world".
Vasan Bala's first film, "Peddlers", premiered in Cannes Critics' Week in 2012 but for reasons unknown never made its way to the multiplexes in India.
"Every now and then a conversation begins around the possibility of the film being released but nothing has happened so far. I do not know why."
Ever since he began filming "Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota", the director had his sights set on a world premiere at an A-list film festival.
This was revealed by first-time actor Abhimanyu Dassani, who trained for eight months in mixed martial arts, taekwondo and karate and went in for a diet of six full meals a day to gain six kilos after landing the lead role through a lending audition process.
"I kept dreaming of an international festival premiere. It is surreal that 'Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota' in now actually in TIFF," the actor said.
Dassani's co-star in the film is Radhika Madan, who earned her spurs with a popular television series, "Meri Aashiqui Tumse Hi". Her debut film, Vishal Bhardwaj's "Pataakha", is set for release on September 28. It will be followed soon thereafter by "Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota".
The cast of "Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota" includes Mahesh Manjrekar and Gulshan Devaiah in key roles.