Toofaan Hindi Movie Review
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's Toofaan is gentle and warm in some places, but it is mostly not strong enough to knock us off. It is a drama with a story about a ruffian from Mumbai making it big in the world of boxing. When we first meet Farhan Akthar's Aziz Ali in the movie, he is a Munnah Bhai-like gangster who threatens and beats up debtors for don Jaffar Bhai played by Vijay Raaz. Like most Hindi cinema gangsters in leading roles, Aziz does the job to feed the poor and hungry. Aziz's life changes when he meets the love of his life, Mrunal Thakur's doctor Ananya Prabhu.
Like all boxing movies, Toofaan has a conventional arc in its story of an underdog winning against all odds. There is a Paresh Rawal character here that seems more like Amrish Puri from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge than a boxing coach. Rawal's character here is a bigot with such pronounced hatred for Muslims. And, he does what boxing coaches usually do in sports films as well as disgruntled fathers usually would in Hindi cinema. This means the main stretch involving Rawal's Narayan, the father, is an attempt to emotionally manipulate the viewer. As a coach, Narayan's role is limited to delivering seemingly inspiring speeches as well as uppercut gestures during boxing matches.
Then there is a love story at the center of the movie, which I must admit is sweet for a large part. Mrunal Thakur is lovely as Ananya Prabhu, and her loveliness makes for a good contrast to Farhan's raw intensity. Aziz wants to make it big as a boxer more for Ananya than himself, which makes for a lovely relationship to root for. Nevertheless, there is more scope in this relationship than what Mehra ends up showing.
The drama just does not work thanks to the excessive use of songs in the film as well as the commentary to the boxing matches. Hindi cinema should look at how to use sports commentary as an organic part of the match rather than just a narrative tool. Mehra uses it to spell out what the main character feels at pivotal points in the match. I found this to be a limiting factor in the film to a large extent. If the drama is strong enough, then why would you need a cricket broadcaster to commentate on boxing matches? This strips the boxing part in the film of any sort of authenticity. On the other hand, most of the boxing sequences here seem more like videos shot for TV spots than real matches.
I do understand that a sports film has certain inescapable genre conventions, as in the case of a horror film. The movie makes some bold and unconventional moves in the earlier portions. But even some of the non-boxing parts later in Toofaan are fairly contrived and predictable. Take the scene where Rawal goes to see one of his old disciples, for instance. Before the meeting even begins, you could tell what is on the cards. If there is one reason to watch Toofaan, then it would be Farhan Akhtar. Whether it is as a gangster, boxer, or a suited-up tours and travels guy, Akhtar looks the part. He is the only saving grace in a film riddled with songs, cliches and contrivances. I also liked Hussain Dalal as Aziz's friend Munna, though. I wish Mehra explored the relationship between the two characters a little more.