Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Mrunal Thakur, Paresh Rawal, Mohan Agashe, Supriya Pathak Kapoor
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra gets into the sports arena for the second time with his latest Amazon Prime Toofan. While his 2013 Bhaag Milkha Bhaag had Farhan Akhtar playing the renowned Olympics runner, the director’s Toofan steps into the boxing ring. In an early scene, master coach Nana Prabhu (Paresh Rawal) tells Aziz Ali — a man with phenomenal energy and extraordinary speed but abysmally lacking in technique — that he must treat the ring as his home.
Ali (Akhtar) is a gangster from the Mumbai suburb of Dongri who specialises in extortion and loan collection often through violent means, but in a curious case of turnabout feels that boxing may help him to be a mightier thug. He goes to Prabhu, who is initially reluctant to train Ali, also because he is a Muslim from Dongri. But the coach eventually relents.
Prabhu’s animosity towards the community stems from the death of his young wife in a terror attack that leaves his young daughter Ananya unscathed. He doggedly assumes that all Muslims are terrorists, despite his close drinking buddy, Vinay (Mohan Agashe), emphasising time and again that this can never be true. But Prabhu’s mind has been hardened to such an extent that he even refuses to order Chinese food from a Muslim joint!
Years later, Ananya (Mrunal Thakur), who has grown up to be a doctor serving in a charity hospital meant for the poor and the needy, has a dramatic encounter with Ali when he walks in with a wound on his head. When she learns that he had been in a brawl, she throws him out.
Toofan is often inane and predictable with Ali going on to win boxing match after boxing match, and eventually catching the eye and the heart of Ananya. It does not need a Sherlock Holmes to anticipate where the plot will wind up, although a second totally unexpected tragedy, seems needless and purports to have been written merely to harden Prabhu’s adamancy.
Unfortunately, Toofan clutters its canvas with too many issues, and the narrative of about 160 minutes penned by Anjum Rajabali and Vijay Maurya, appears such a drag. Editing has been thrown out of the window, with some scenes playing on forever. A love story between Ali and Ananya, a father-daughter relationship, innumerable tear-jerkers and several songs weaken the core plot, and the boxing ring begins to look all foggy.
This was where movies like Chak De India and Dhangal scored because they were focussed, while Toofan veers towards the unnecessary, and often uses the emotional card to keep us engaged.
However, Mehra has managed to assemble a great cast. Akhtar is exceptional first as the Dongri ‘Dada’ and later as a mellowed lover, husband and father. His transformational arc is compelling. Thakur is pleasant as a bubbly girl spreading her infectious smile and joyful radiance, and Rawal and Agashe play their parts with admirable conviction.
Beyond this, Toofan has little fire and fury that one would expect from a work on boxing.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is a movie critic and author)