Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra.
What’s Good: Farhan’s dedication to the sport. Mrunal Thakur’s piercing innocence. Jay Oza’s camera creating a visually appealing world.
What’s Bad: Even with the runtime as long as 2 hours 40 minutes, Toofaan seems overstuffed. Farhan as Ajju Bhai fails to become the local goon from Dongri and you can see through its Akhtar. Also, what’s with the pacing?
Loo Break: Pause and take plenty. The runtime is too long, and you will need at least one. But not when Farhan is showing off his boxing skills, at least for someone like me who doesn’t know the sport properly, he aces them!
Watch or Not?: Only for Farhan’s Aziz Ali, not Ajju Bhai. Mrunal Thakur is also a reason enough. If neither lures you, Mukkabaaz is a better option.
Language: Hindi (with subtitles)
Available on: Amazon Prime Video
Ajju Bhai, aka Aziz Ali (Farhan Akhtar), is an extortionist under a local gangster (Vijay Raaz) in Mumbai’s Dongri. We don’t know the year exactly the film is set in but by the looks of it seems in the past decade. Ajju meets Ananya (Mrunal Thakur), who gives him reason enough to become Aziz Ali, the boxer. Begins the grind as Nana Prabhu (Paresh Rawal) trains him, and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra himself has to make an appearance to conclude it all.
Toofaan Movie Review: Script Analysis
Let’s list down the last 3 fictional films about boxing (not biopics, because it will be a wrong comparison). Mukkabaaz, Sultan & Brothers. Two out of the three (in a way the third as well) use the template where the lady love motivates the confused man to take up boxing and come back glorious. Toofaan becomes an addition to the same list. But what stands out in the film is the subtlety of it all and, of course, Jay Oza, but about that later.
Story and screenplay by Anjum Rajabali, Toofaan, is about a man finding a hook in life to live with dignity and finding redemption after a point. Coming out of the same mill Gully Boy came from (producers), you see bits and pieces of inspiration. The film uses the same technique of starting the story in the middle of the lives of its characters, by not especially giving them a special introduction. We enter Dongri and meet Ajju Bhai, who is the Robinhood. Through him, we meet Ananya quickly.
Whatever little victory of Toofaan exists in the same thing that leads to the film’s downfall. We enter in a swift speed where characters don’t take special time to set the universe. Ajju, in no time, finds his anchor and begins the journey of Aziz Ali Boxer. Now I was expecting the pace to slow down after this point. Because the character has so much meat in him that the catharsis he went through would make a moving narrative to tell.
But to my dismay, the film, in its almost 3-hour runtime, never slows down. Like even when there’s a death, for real. Conflicts come and go as if daily soap and boxers are made overnight in a montage. We are never given space to breathe in the victory that Aziz achieves; instead, a new conflict awaits, and so does the solution to it, quite quickly. For example, Ajju becomes Aziz in a scene, he gets Paresh Rawal as a coach in 2. 3 scenes later, he is the best boxer in the state, and in the next, Paresh has broken up with him, leading to the next act of the film. Exhausting right? Same feeling.
As I said, the little win is the same reason for the loss too. The pace didn’t allow me to invest emotionally enough that I cry when Aziz does, or fall in love when Ananya looks at the camera. As said, these characters are written to be likeable and lively, but if there is no breathing space, how am I suppose to let them make place in my heart?
If we shift our gaze from the main story, the parallel narratives in a way look at the society. The socio-economic structure, the cast divide and how a particular religion is looked down upon when spoken about discipline or trust. All of that is relatable. When Paresh Rawal tells his daughter, “Muslims se dur rehne ka,” you know someone who thinks like that. It is a conversation that needs to be addressed but with a better conclusion.
Toofaan deserved more depth, more thought and a slow narrative that is more intriguing and hooking for the viewer.
Toofaan Movie Review: Star Performance
Boy, oh boy, it’s like watching two Farhan Akhtars in one film. While he is amazing when he steps into the boxing ring as Aziz Ali, he knows the dance of punches and become the boxer in his top form with his 2000 bulging muscles. But when he is Ajju Bhai, the goon, he tries hard at becoming one. Of course, he is Farhan, and he doesn’t let that show as much as a less seasoned actor would have, but when he says ‘idiot’ with the clearest pronunciation, you catch the loophole. Also, Vijay Maurya’s additional screenplay works like a concealer.
Mrunal Thakur, as said, charms with her innocence, and her smile pierces the heart. She becomes Aziz’s anchor, inspiration and motivation all at the same time. But her existence is strictly around him most of the time, just two or maximum three scenes away from him.
Paresh Rawal is a treat to watch as the coach Nana Prabhu. The actor shows why he is a veteran as he grabs your attention in every single scene he is in.
Toofaan Movie Review: Direction, Music
It breaks my heart to not fall in love with a film made by one of my favourite filmmakers. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra doesn’t stick to his staple style of storytelling, and there is no harm in it. But then, when he decided to pace it up so much that all the hard work and struggle ended up looking too easy is where the problem kicked in.
One Redemption for the audience is Jay Oza’s cinematography and how the man captures the world of his subjects. The focus is entirely on the place the actors are standing. Super zoom ins are not his favourite perspective. He likes it when mid, and the surrounding is captured. It is fun to watch and adds a layer to the film.
I never thought I would ever say this about a Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra album. Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s music fails to create the magic ROM songs are known to create. Also, the placement of those tracks is so random that it doesn’t create any impact.
Toofaan Movie Review: The Last Word
Maybe I had too many expectations from Toofaan, and if I did, I wasn’t wrong. Two of my favourite people in the movies have reunited. But they fail to create the impact their last collaboration did (Bhaag Milkha Bhaag). Imagine even a Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra cameo did not do much to save the film!
Toofan releases on 16th July, 2021 on Amazon Prime Video.
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