toofan review

Actors Farhan Akhtar and Mrunal Thakur in a scene from “Toofan.” (publicity photo)

The film is overlong (like Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s ‘Rang De Basanti” and “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,” the only good films he has directed, as well as his four other disappointments as a director, led by “Mirziya”). This suggests that he needs a businesslike editor, and that, too, at the SCRIPT level. Given this script, film editor Meghna Manchanda Sen could have done little.

(It is part of film-lore how the super self-indulgent director Ashutosh Gowariker—maker of “Jodhaa Akbar,” which ran for 3.34 hours! — actually showed guests, at the film’s success party, the 50-plus minutes of footage removed from the final released version!!).

Mehra should have considered today’s audience that prefers to watch films that are slightly under—or over—two hours of runtime. Especially the material here was not conducive to 2.42 hours and could have been wrapped in that much time.

Nevertheless, the way it is made, the film rarely drags, though the boxing sequences are largely predictable, as all sports films’ footage has been for 14 years now since “ChakDe! India.” The difference is mainly in the sport itself and in the actors involved!

Having said that, I must mention here that Farhan Akhtar here, as the title-role player Aziz Ali, a.k.a. Ajju, a thug from Mumbai’s lowbrow area of Dongri, is way different from what he was in “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,” which is to his and Mehra’s credit. Playing a lower-class have-not (a la “Gully Boy’s” Ranveer Singh—a film co-produced by Akhtar), he gives a big natural and likable vibe to his character, as he has to learn life’s lessons one by one, for someone of his background and character.

A welcome surprise is Vijay Raaz’s character as Jafferbhai, the extortionist for whom Ajju works. Though he loses Ajju, his prime worker, to boxing (an oath taken as a licensed boxer prevents the use of violence for personal gains) and is initially furious with him, there is no dirty or retribution-like measure taken by Jafferbhai, and he roots for Ajju even in the film’s climax.

A communal angle is brought in through the character of Nana Prabhu (Paresh Rawal), the extraordinary coach to whom Ajju is referred. He detests and distrusts Muslims as his beloved wife Sumati (Sonali Kulkarni) has died in a city bomb blast. Nevertheless, he coaches Ajju and soon realizes that he is truly dedicated. He calls him “Toofaan,” the unstoppable storm, when Ajju wins the first of many prestigious bouts.

Little does Nana know, though, that the woman who has inspired Ajju to mend his ways and seek a respectable life is his daughter, Dr. Ananya (Mrunal Thakur), who has encountered Ajju’s different shades in a local clinic as a doctor. Ajju worships the Hindu doctor and when Prabhu comes to know this, he is livid enough to let a rebellious Ananya leave his house.

To be able to afford a house, much against his wishes, Ajju takes a huge bribe at the insistence of his closest friend Munna (Hussain Dalal) to lose a tournament and is banned from the sport. He begins a taxi service. Ananya is furious with him, but after Munna’s confession, forgives Ajju. The two wed, with the blessings of Ananya’s father’s friend Bala Kaka (Mohan Agashe), and soon get a daughter.

After five years elapse, and Ajju has let himself go physically, Ananya goads him into action again as boxing had become his life and passion. Ajju is reluctant, but a tragedy goads him into recovering his lost honor and he triumphs, leading to even Nana accepting him.

Thankfully, the communal angle is rationally and realistically handled, and full marks to the director and his writers for that. For starters, there is no scheming politician involved! This angle is also well-integrated into the plot.

The dialogues (Vijay Maurya) are lifelike and avoid over-the-top melodrama, though some sequences do succumb to that point, like the temple sequence between Nana and Ajju-Ananya’s daughter. The love between the couple despite their social disparity is charmingly and innovatively shown and Mrunal Thakur is absolutely brilliant all through as Ananya. The final sequences are deftly executed at the emotional level.

Technically smart, the film has terrific performances by Paresh Rawal as the coach, Mohan Agashe as the man who tries his best to bring Nana out of his anti-Muslim stance and emerges as a father-figure to Ananya, and a fairly cute one by Supriya Pathak. Hussain Dalal is competent. Gauri Phulka as Ajju-Ananya’s daughter puts in a consummate and natural performance.

The music is serviceable at best, unlike the “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” score, though I liked “Star Hai Tu” composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. The film is technically smart, with a special mention needed of the authentic production design by Rajat Poddar in all the sets.

The film is a decent watch, all things considered, and a lot of that is due to the two lead players and Paresh Rawal (whose expressions and body language are phenomenal), the lifelike dialogues and the underplayed emotions.

Rating: ***

Excel Entertainment and ROMP presents “Toofan”

Produced by: Ritesh Sidhwani, Farhan Akhtar & Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Directed by: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Written by: Farhan Akhtar, Anjum Rajabali & Vijay Maurya

Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Dub Sharma, Samuel-Akanksha & Daniel Lozinski

Starring: Farhan Akhtar, Mrunal Thakur, Paresh Rawal, Mohan Agashe, Supriya Pathak, Vijay Raaz, Sonali Kulkarni,Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Hussain Dalal,

Darshan Kumaar, Deven Khote, Akashdeep Sabir, Gauri Phulka & others

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