Toofaan Movie Review
After Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra turns to sport for the second time with Toofan. While the earlier film was based on the life of a genuine sports icon, the latter is a piece of fiction. Seems like Mehra is a fan of American boxing films like Rocky, Raging Bull, and Million Dollar Baby, as Toofan feels like a homage to all these great films.
Aziz Ali (Farhan Akhtar) is a low-level street goon who gets smitten by Ananaya (Mrunal Thakur), a doctor who patches him up after he gets hit on the head in a brawl. She throws him out of the hospital after she comes to know he’s a goonda and in order to earn some real respect, he joins the boxing gym run by Nana Prabhu (Paresh Rawal), who also happens to be Ananya’s father. Prabhu is the best coach in Mumbai but he’s also a religious bigot. While he transforms Aziz into Toofan, a lean, mean, fighting machine, he showers him with choicest abuses when he comes to know that his protege is in love with his daughter. Nana’s hatred of Muslims stems from the fact that his wife was killed in a bomb blast. Hence, he considers every Musim to be a terrorist. Aziz indulges in match-fixing in order to buy a house for himself and Ananya but is caught on camera doing so. His boxing licence is suspended for five years. Thankfully, he doesn’t go back to being a goon but gets his life back on track and becomes a successful tours and travel agent. Five years pass by. Aziz and Ananya now have a daughter, Myra (Gauri Phulka) and are happy in their middle-class domesticity. When Ananya comes to know that Aziz’s ban has been revoked, she wants him to apply for his licence again and starts boxing. He’s reluctant to do so as he’s hugely out of shape. However, her untimely death in an accident compels him to go back to his dream and fulfil her last wishes…
The film is written by Anjum Rajabali and Vijay Maurya, who are guilty of putting in a highly predictable screenplay. You can sense what’s going to happen next a mile off. As a result, there’s hardly any drama in the film. Aziz wins bout after bout with ease, despite taking to boxing quite late in life. The same sequence is repeated even in his second innings. It all seems miraculous to the extreme. The age-old trope of getting a beloved character killed to provide the emotional impetus to the hero is repeated here as well. The climax scenes involving Darshan Kumar’s character smack of melodrama. And the bond between grandfather and granddaughter which happens later also develops along predictable lines. It’s as if a certain set template was being followed. Take away the smartphones and you might as well be watching a tear-jerker from the ’60s. Director Ryan Coogler resurrected Creed (2015) from Rocky (1976), taking the same template but making a powerful film about a wayward boy from the wrong side of the tracks being turned into a champion. While Toofan kind of follows the same Rocky/ Creed storyline, it doesn’t offer the kind of emotional closure provided by those films.
Despite being a commercial director, Mehra has always avoided being formulaic. He has an inherent sense of drama, and knows how to tug the emotional chords of the viewers. He did it supremely well in past films like Rang De Basanti (2006), Delhi-6 (2009) and even Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. You want to know why he is playing safe here and not taking risks. His films are known for their unpredictability but that’s not the case here. Apart from lax writing, complacent editing is the other culprit here. At two hours and forty minutes, Toofan is too long by today’s standards. The songs weren’t needed and could easily have been chopped. Some scenes look dragged while others look repetitive. Cinematography by Jay Oza does shine, though. It’s one bright spot among the technical aspects.
The film’s saving grace is the immaculate acting from the elite set of actors Mehra has hired. Be it Vijay Raaz, who is cast as the ‘dada’ who brought-up an orphaned Aziz and now expects him to do his bidding, Hussain Dalal, Aziz’s Circuit-like sidekick, ready to die for his bro, Supriya Pathak, the kind nurse Sister D’Souza who offers them shelter or Mohan Agashe, who plays Nana Prabhu’s kindly neighbour — all have done their jobs well. Paresh Rawal may not look like a boxing coach but puts in a lot of conviction in his acting. The casual hatred he spews as a Hindutva soldier who hates the minority with all his heart is a mirror to our contemporary society. His unforgiving stance towards his daughter and son-in-law too is true-to-life. Mrunal Thakur shines like a bright beacon in this otherwise stark film. Her infectious smile draws you in everytime. You want her to be there in the crows, cheering for Toofan and flinching when he’s getting hurt but strangely that particular trope has been avoided by Mehra. Her relationship with her widower father, tolerating his drinking habit and his bigotry with a maternal calm feels just right. Her post-marriage scenes with Farhan are non-existent, however. You want to know how two people from different backgrounds are battling the odds and progressing in their relationship but that doesn’t happen. Farhan looks too polished to be a goonda in the initial scenes. He comes into his own as a boxer, however. The fear, the anxiety as well as the exhilaration of a fighter are all in place. He must also be admired for the fantastic body transformation he seems to have achieved for the film. He looks like a genuine boxer in every frame. His commitment and dedication can’t be denied. His willingness to take risks and to do something different with each outing is admirable indeed. But here he’s let down by the weak script.
All-in-all, watch Toofan for the inspired acting by Farhan Akhtar, Paresh Rawal, Mrunal Thakur and the entire ensemble cast. They have uplifted the film through sheer force of will.
Trailer : Toofaan
Renuka Vyavahare, July 16, 2021, 3:52 AM IST
Toofaan Story: The life of Aziz Ali aka Ajju bhai (Farhan Akhtar), a street ruffian, debt collector and henchman of a criminal overlord changes overnight after he falls in love with a righteous doctor Ananya (Mrunal Thakur). She asks him to make a choice. Does he see himself as Ajju wasooli bhai or Aziz Ali, a respected boxer?
Toofaan Review: A good hearted Parsi gym owner in the neighbourhood, introduces the legendary Muhammad Ali’s videos to Aziz. ‘Boxing Aur bhaigiri mein yahi farak hai. Boxing is a sport that needs technique, discipline and patience, not just strength,’ he clarifies. Recognising his potential and the expert training he deserves, Aziz is recommended to a widely respected boxing coach Nana Prabhu (Paresh Rawal). The Dadar veteran is wary of a Muslim guy from Dongri with notorious background but agrees to take him under his wing. He even bestows him with the title ‘Toofaan’ (unstoppable storm) but this near perfect coach-protege relationship takes an ugly turn when things get personal.
Forbidden love, casual bigotry, communal harmony, making of a boxer and redemption of a disgraced athlete… Toofaan tries to tread several paths at once. In doing so, the fictional tale loosely feels like a mishmash of several films you may have seen before… Ghulam, Sultan, Mukkabaaz. Given the fact that Toofaan sees Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra reuniting with his solid Bhaag Milkha Bhaag team — Farhan Akhtar and Shankar Ehsaan-Loy, one expects nothing less than fireworks. What you get is a run of the mill story told in an over-simplistic way. A few empty punches, a few solid blows, lot of evading the opponent and eventually tiring out the vibe, Toofaan is an odd mix of succumbing to and destroying the stereotypes. Love lies at the heart of the story but boxing drives the narrative. The juggling doesn’t seem organic and feels a lot like one interrupting the other.
You always have a choice, believes Ananya. To uproot yourself from the world you were born into and upgrade, isn’t easy. The film’s protagonist does it without batting an eye and you hope to follow his journey, inner conflict and boxing skill. The focus however, shifts to a conventional interfaith love story, societal scrutiny, parental outrage and boxing as an extended highlight.
The film’s strongest portions revolve around its modest and realistic setting, the coach-protégé relationship and confrontation on communal discourse. Strangely these scenes are cut short and emotions curbed in order to keep the story moving. The story gives an impression that it wishes to delve into issues like religious tolerance, empathy and prejudice but settles on merely scratching the surface.
After Bandra boy Ranveer Singh rapped his way into your heart through the gullies of Dharavi in Gully Boy, you have Farhan Akhtar doing some Phoda phodi in Dongri in Toofaan. While Ranveer still has a mainstream appeal, Farhan’s thinking urban persona can be overwhelming. The actor-writer-director takes his time but manages to mould himself into a character that isn’t remotely close to his sensibility. As far as his physical transformation is concerned, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag has already proved his sincerity and determination to look the part. It’s everything or nothing for Farhan and he sticks to the plan this time around as well. His face off with renowned Indian boxers like Neeraj Goyat, Gaganpreet Sharma is captivating.
Paresh Rawal gives the film its finest moments by merely shooting a glance at his highly misunderstood boxer. He, along with Dr Mohan Agashe show you how good actors can elevate a standard script. Mrunal Thakur essays her role in an undramatic, earnest manner. What also stands out is characters not wallowing in self pity when in crisis or pretending to be something they are not. Aziz unabashedly admits, “Boxing mein jo foda fodi hai, Woh Kareeb hai apne.”
Overall, Toofaan may not be the cyclone you may have expected it to be but it definitely has its thundering moments.
For all the latest Entertainment News Click Here