Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Story and Screenplay: Anjum Rajabali, Vijay Maurya (additional screenplay and dialogue)
Director of Photography: Jay Oza
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Mrunal Thakur, Paresh Rawal
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video
It’s difficult to form an opinion about Toofaan. It is a classic rise-fall-redemption story of a hero. Aziz Ali (Farhan Akhtar) is a street gangster from Dongri who gets inspired by watching Mohammad Ali’s videos and decides to become a boxer. Why? He wants respect. He’s aware that people from his ‘area’ bowing down in front of him is definitely not ‘respect’. He finds inspiration in a girl, Ananya (Mrunal Thakur). To become Arjun, you need a Dronacharya. Paresh Rawal plays the coach Nana Prabhu.
The guy is Muslim and the girl is Hindu – a social issue which will never get resolved in this country because it’s a goldmine for vote bank politics. Toofaan has all the elements to become another masala potboiler. But thankfully it doesn’t. During the lockdown since March 2020, the Indian audience has been exposed to a lot of quality content. The age-old ‘leave your brains at home’ sensibility has significantly changed. Audience is now much more open to see a variety of storytelling. This is again at the same time when there are groups who protest against anything that they don’t like and want it banned.
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Toofaan was made for a theatrical release which eventually landed directly on Amazon Prime Video because of the pandemic. It’s good that there aren’t many songs (something mainstream theatrical releases can’t do without). Whichever songs are there, except one Begaani Shaadi Mein Abdullah Deewana, take the story forward. There are so many films made in sports-dramas or biopics that it’s a huge challenge to come up with something new. We have seen endless body transformation montages to not care to see one now.
This is what screenwriter Anjum Rajabali, director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and DOP Jay Oza do differently. The treatment is quite realistic and understated. A big relief from massy dramatization. There’s dialogue rather than dialogue-baazi. Aziz Ali is a man rather than an untamable ‘Hero’. Farhan Akhtar’s transformation and progression sequences are done quite cinematically. I particularly liked the sequence where he is practicing his first punch at night on a building’s terrace. His shadow is bigger than him, and the camera keeps pulling up and up. They also spare us from the high-speed moments of sport (in this case boxing) which are done and dusted in sports dramas.
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Akhtar has gone through a huge transformation but thankfully that doesn’t overshadow the narrative. His hair (Avan Contractor) and makeup (Shrikant Desai) deserve a special mention here. Akhtar and Mehra last created the mammoth biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013). The reunion works perfectly fine in Toofaan. Music director trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy reunites with them too. Toofaan’s title track reminds that of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag but rest of the tracks don’t stay with you for long.
Mrunal Thakur is natural and lovely as Ananya. There’s still so much more to explore in this actor. She holds her own space in the company of acting stalwarts like Paresh Rawal and Dr. Mohan Agashe. It was a delight to see Paresh Rawal in a meaty, layered role after a long time.
Watch the trailer of Toofaan here:
Toofaan, the film, is much like a storm. It is more about the storm inside the man than outside. The external hurdles are less and get resolved easily. It is about what burns inside. Toofaan is also how a storm can destroy you as well as build you for the future. Structurally, it follows the traditional approach, but the treatment makes for an engaging experience. It will be safe to say that Toofaan is a writer-director’s film; taking nothing away from its cast and crew. Do watch it.