Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Mrunal Thakur, Paresh Rawal
Director: Rakesh Omprakash Mehra
By Shaon Basu
The successful combination of “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” – Farhan Akhtar and Rakesh Omprakash Mehra – was enough to make the audience excited about “Toofan” – the tale of boxer Aziz Ali. A local rowdy debt collector, Ajju Bhai (Farhan Akhtar) has grown up in the streets of Mumbai as an orphan, taken care of and raised by local goon Jaffar Bhai (Vijay Raaz). Ajju Bhai is rustic, violent, and a street thug who has a chance to meet with Dr. Ananya (Mrunal Thakur) while being treated in her hospital after receiving injuries as a result of an inter-gang brawl. As expected, Ananya has a transformative effect on Ajju Bhai. Mehra presents a realistic picture of the Mumbai suburb, Dongri, and the life of the inhabitants.
The film is predictable right from the beginning, but Farhan’s dedication towards every role he takes up is highly commendable and that is what hooks the audience. Mrunal Thakur performs surprisingly well in her limited role. Boxer Aziz Ali’s trainer, Nana Prabhu is played by legendary actor Paresh Rawal. As expected from Paresh Rawal, he depicts the role of a no-nonsense and disciplinarian trainer to the core and trains Farhan Akhtar, despite initially being skeptical about how serious he is towards the sport.
The film somehow feels too elongated, mainly due to the way the ascent of Farhan Akhtar as a boxer has been portrayed. The rise is so sudden and hastened that the audience would have been left wondering what else could there be in the remaining 1 hour 43 mins of the film. The film explores the religious angle and depicts Paresh Rawal as a religious conservative who would never approve of his daughter Anaya’s relationship with a Muslim boy, notwithstanding the fact that the same boy is now his most trusted disciple.
The film then gets into the cliched troubled couple’s miseries and hardships until Aziz Ali deliberately takes a step drastic enough to ruin his prolific career. It is hard to understand why someone who loves the sport would suddenly take a step as drastic as this one just to acquire something well beyond his means, despite the fact that he has already acquired the love of his life. But we can still accept it as blind love.
Paresh Rawal gives a convincing performance as a conservative father and a veteran boxing enthusiast. He analyses Aziz Ali on his very first meeting as someone who has agility but lacks discipline and technique. Once Aziz Ali falls in love with the sport, his dedication is unstoppable and the rest turns out exactly as predicted. The effort of making a film that is almost 3 hours long seems unwarranted mainly due to how the audience would have guessed every move that Mehra was trying to pull off.
Farhan Akhtar captivates the audience with his brand of impactful acting that the audience can easily relate to. He makes you fall in love with “Boxing” as a sport. The film could have done more to keep the sport as its major focus rather than diversifying into dealing with too many social, communal, and political issues that make the audience lose focus and result in the film being dragged without direction.
The music of the film is decent: a lot more is always expected from Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, who have given us some memorable music in the past. Supriya Pathak and Vijay Raaz have limited impact in the limited roles they have in the film, and it would be fair to say that actors of such talent have been underutilized in the film. Sonali Kulkarni gets an unnecessary look in as the wife of Nana Prabhu (Paresh Rawal): she gets killed in a terrorist attack that gives birth to Prabhu’s animosity towards the community, so much so that he even refuses to order food from a Muslim joint. Gauri Phulka, who plays the role of the daughter of Aziz Ali and Ananya has a greater impact with her role than the earlier mentioned actors, and this is surprising.
The latter half of the film once again predictably makes Aziz Ali retrain and get into boxing mode to fulfill his late wife’s dreams. This brings back the trainer-trainee duo back again and the magic is easily recreated.
All in all, the film is an entertainer mainly due to Farhan Akhtar. But for how long it remains in the memories of the audience is debatable.