Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra gets into the sports arena for the second time with his latest Amazon Prime Toofaan, produced by Ritesh Sidhwani. While his 2013 Bhaag Milkha Bhaag had Farhan Akhtar playing the renowned Olympics runner, the director’s Toofaan steps into the boxing ring.
Farhan Akhtar as Aziz Ali claims the streets with his rough and tough Dongri goon. His transformation to a wrestling champion is equally stupendous! He not only loses his shaggy beard but also his heart to a “doctor madam”. Their love story begins in the surgery of a charitable dispensary, where Ananya Prabhu (Mrunal Thakur) stitches the hero’s lacerations not once but twice. His chance encounter with Ananya’s pure aura lifts him off the dingy streets of Dongri to the boxing ring of the famous coach Nana Prabhu. Nana (played effortlessly by the accomplished veteran actor Paresh Rawal) is skeptical about the boy because he is a Muslim from Mira-Bhayandar, Thane with links to Dubai goons. But slowly and predictably Aziz Ali is admitted to Nana’s training institute.
Aziz Ali embraces the advice of his coach Nana by treating the boxing ring as his ghar but Prabhu does not know that he is slowly harboring dreams of making his daughter Ananya, his gharwali. The movie packs a bit too many subplots, and because of that fails to hit the target of Mehra pictures like in Rang De Basanti and BMB. But the boxing paraphernalia, training, matches, costumes, street scenes, makeup, and cinematography are top-notch.
Now begins Farhan Akhtar’s rigorous and intensive training of both body, mind, and emotions. This part is authentic because knowing Farhan, he does not take shortcuts. Farhan said it was difficult for him to gain the extra ten pounds, whereas we face the same issue to lose the pesky pandemic ten pounds. I was amused and impressed at Mehra’s response to my question. He utilized Farhan’s dedication to direct him superbly in both sport-oriented movies. In Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mehra shot the race sequence first, and in Toofan he garnered Akhtar’s exercise enthusiasm into making him achieve the required weight loss for his final.
It was amazing to join the famous four – Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra, Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani, and Mrunal Thakur – at a recent international press conference.
Farhan said that he is still boxing regularly at the gym, and did not want the movie to stop. He can throw a punch but the goodwill ambassador that he’d rather not.
Mrunal Thakur, looking gorgeous in her couture white skirt and blouse, enjoyed playing her character because “Ananya is full of life and can put a smile on everyone’s face.”
She is quite loquacious both on and off-screen. She encouraged young actors to persevere, “If you don’t, someone else will make a decision for you, and you will not like that.”
When Toofan released, I realized what the young actress was trying to convey. Ananya is the one who brings a cataclysmic shift in the lives of the men she loves – her father and her husband. Then by a shift in perspectives, grit and gut-wrenching preparation, her dream is realized. But this medal comes at a very steep price.
I recommend our viewers to watch the movie Toofaan, even if just to see Farhan Akhtar’s incredible performance. He may not “dance like a butterfly and sting like a bee-like” like the famous Mohammad Ali but he gets an A for finding his own style as a boxer!
Monita Soni grew up in Mumbai, India, and works as a pathologist in Alabama. She is well known for her creative nonfiction and poetry pieces inspired by family, faith, food, home, and art. She has written two books: My Light Reflections and Flow through my Heart. She is a regular contributor to NPR’s Sundial Writers Corner.