Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra gives a film that is gutsy filling you with a rush of adrenaline, but at times feels that you have seen such affairs
A love story. A sports film. Or rather a balanced mix of both. Love and boxing are served to you in equal measures, where one drives the other. Toofaan is a film that attempts to inspire you, but the extreme simplistic nature of the story makes you think that this is some film from the 90s packed in a new avatar. This film is a classic example of what wonders can a thoughtful screenplay can do for a very basic story structure.
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Aziz Ali aka Ajju Bhai (Farhan Akhtar) is a small time extortionist in the streets of Dongri. By chance of fate, he is attracted to the sport of boxing and motivated to channelise his energies and angst in the correct direction by the love of his life Dr. Ananya (Mrunal Thakur)
The story idea is by Farhan Akhtar. The story and screenplay are penned by Anjum Rajabali with additional screenplay and dialogues by Vijay Maurya. The story is a one liner notion. There are conflicts in the narrative structure but that too don’t make a high impact coming to think of the larger context of the story. Firstly, it’s not a sports film or a biopic that you relate with the sporting nature of the sportsperson and get motivated by the fighting spirit. It is primarily a love story fused well with sports as a way of life. What the film should be commended for that despite a straightforward and predictable line of action, the screenplay by Rajabali manages to glue you for the runtime.
Where the film suffers is also the fact that it is 161mins long. This becomes a liability especially when you can see that the film could be reduced by a good 20-30mins. The graph of the story is decent with incidents happening at their good pace. You are informed about the characters, their beliefs, their placement within the frame and you do see them progress. The biggest conflict comes in the form of Hindu-Muslim bonding where one key person in the story holds grudges against Muslims, for a reason of his own. There are dialogues for biases that one holds against one particular religion. Notions about Musalmano ka Khoon, ye log aise hi hain– hit right at you, serving as the focal points of the narrative.
The film does has a flair though. You have a smile on your face for a good portion of the film, Aziz-Ananya and Aziz-Nana (Paresh Rawal) chemistry working well for the purpose. The boxing matches are choreographed well with an intent to motivate you or the dialogues when the characters speak of how boxing is the correct way in life- you feel good about the film. But you know the end result right from the first scene. You are also a little disappointed at the reason shown for Aziz to get back to boxing after a long time. You wonder if they could have shown an alternate way to justify the quest of the title for the boxer. This one here seems too cliche to say the least.
What you are impressed by is the visual appeal of the film and the initial preparation of the boxer. However, the film by its very nature doesn’t delve deep into the mind of the boxer- as ofcourse it is not aimed at doing so. It is basically the rise and fall and rise once-again of a boxer with the motivation of his beloved- in presence and absentia. The screenplay ticks all the boxes needed for a film to be called a decent venture, but sadly the story doesn’t.
Farhan Akhtar is brilliant, as always. He uses his charm and body, both to maximum advantage. As a street fighter or as a boxer, his body language is perfect. He shows growth in an amateur boxer as the levels go by. You like him in the film, for sure.
Mrunal Thakur is also very good as a performer. Her role should have been a little more etched out in terms of the say in the plot. But whatever is asked of her, she has delivered it without a flaw.
Paresh Rawal is amazingly good. The manner in which he mouths his dialogues will bring a smile to your face, even when he says things politically incorrect or not digestible to you. He is a darling when it comes to expressing the emotions of a character, undoubtedly. Here also, he has shades to him and he justifies all of them.
Mohan Agashe lends an able supporting hand in the narrative in addition to rendering confidence and faith in the character. Supriya Pathak has a small role. She comes and goes and come again. But you like her. You know even in a small role, she has left her mark so nicely that you feel it’s only her that could do this role.
Hussain Dalal is also nice, catching the body language of a tapori well and being with the lead, no matter what. He is a great actor, and he reinforces the fact here.
Vijay Raaz should have been more. He is clearly underutilised. The way he has been introduced in the film and how well he performs and suits the role, you wish there was more of him, giving the film more glory. Darshan Kumaar comes as a star in the film and performs beautifully in a role that has its own merits and demerits.
Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy does justice to the film, like a complete album, just like many of their films. The title track is full of energy and when it comes in the film, the story seems to have gotten pace and punch. Wish it was true though in the case of the entire film. The score by the trio and Tubby is also very much rightly placed as per the nature of the story and individual scenes. There are moments, majorly emotional, highlighted through a correct score.
Cinematography by Jay Oza is primarily why you will like the film, even much more than the content. The streets, hospital, boxing arena, the houses, the localities, the city- are all very realistically captured and shown to you. Observe keenly the walls of the houses and buildings used and you will realise how accurately the production designer Rajat Poddar and art director Nilesh Choudhari have brought out the essence. You will feel that you are transported to the location. The visual appeal has been achieved fantastically, the reason why you don’t feel bored even in the dull parts of the film.
Editing by Meghna Manchanda Sen could have been crisper. It goes on and on, although the sequences are tailored well. Only thing, there should have been lesser sequences.
It’s a good film. Gives you a good time. But the actual purpose isn’t served. It remains a good watch, but not a great one.