In his career spanning over two decades, Farhan Akhtar has directed and produced several critically acclaimed films including Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya, Luck by Chance, Talaash and Gully Boy. Not just that, Akhtar has been showing he’s got acting range for days, from his nuanced roles in Rock On and Karthik Calling Karthik to his powerhouse dramatic turn in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. One thing that elevates most of Akhtar’s films from simply being entertaining movies to becoming great ones is the fact that most of them actually have something important to say about modern society, something that might be even more relevant today.
“I think inherently I do feel that a film should have something more to say than you see on the surface," says Farhan, who often seems very intentional and responsible about the projects that he takes on. “I mean it can go as deep as one wants but there has to be something. It cannot be a series of events that leave you with feeling that why they put this together. And again, when we talk about the message in a film it doesn’t necessarily always have to be something that is some kind of stand but there has to be something that on some level emotionally resonates with the viewer."
Further elaborating on his inclination toward films that are not just entertainment, Farhan says, “Somewhere like ‘Lakshya’ to me has a very definite motive and a very definite stand. But what does a film like ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ or ‘Rock On’ tell you? It just tells you that friendship is important and make time for your friends or don’t react so easily or end things when you are emotional and those are little things but they stay with you because you realised that there are things like that, that you also do in your life. The learning from these movies is not like profound learnings but they are the little things in life and it’s nice some time to be reminded of that through a film and through characters that you had enjoyed, or stories that you had enjoyed.
“As long as there is something more than just the entertainment of the film, I think if a film is just entertaining then that’s a little bit crass to me, to just be only entertaining. I haven’t succeeded every single time in achieving that but when it does it feels great," he added.
Akhtar is currently gearing up for the release of director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s boxing drama Toofaan. The multi-faceted star has undergone intense training to prep for the role of Aziz Ali aka Ajju Bhai, a goon who goes on to become a national-level boxer. Toofaan marks Akhtar’s second collaboration with Mehra. The two have previously worked together in another sports-based movie, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag in 2013.
Talking about the most challenging aspect of working in Toofaan, Akhtar says, “Learning a new discipline, a new sport, trying to be good at it requires a lot of focus and training. Fortunately, I had a great team. So they really worked me through all of it. But mentally you have to be really, really strong.
“There are times when you are in the middle of your training, where you are being pushed, where your body is wanting to quit but it’s really your mind that’s kind of telling you what it is that you’re doing this for. Every ounce you give in there is to serve something which is the larger story of the film."
Just like his other films, Akhtar says this one also goes beyond the obvious. “There’s a lot that happens. The sport is really the backdrop… it’s very exciting, of course, it’s cinematic, there’s adrenaline, all that stuff. But the heart of the film lies in the relationships between these characters," he says.
Toofaan also stars Mrunal Thakur, who plays doctor Ananya and Aziz’s love interest, and Paresh Rawal as Nana Prabhu, his boxing coach. Co-produced by Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani under their banner Excel Entertainment, Toofaan is scheduled to be released digitally on Amazon Prime Video on July 16.