Farhan Akhtar & Mrunal Thakur Deliver Even Under The Weight Of Toofaan’s Clumsy Writing

Toofaan bears the burden of clumsy writing but is a testament to Farhan Akhtar & Mrunal Thakur’s capabilities as actors…

When you look at Amazon Prime’s Toofaan as a sports biopic (even though it’s a fictional tale), you see it as a decent film. But writers Anjum Rajabali and Vijay Maurya and director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra don’t make Toofaan just as a sports film. It’s more than that. Toofaan follows the set template of a sports biopic, while dealing with social issues like islamophobia and the differences between the rich and poor. Even while following the universally set template, the storm that Toofaan promised, never arrives. It does arrive in the form of performances, but, we’ve always seen, no matter how good the performance, how far can it take a film when the writing is not upto the mark. On the surface, Toofan works. But a lot of Toofaan seems, both, stretched and hurried.

Toofaan borrows from multiple films, but mostly looks like a mixture of Sultan and Lage Raho Munna Bhai, with a Gully Boy (which also had dialogues by Vijay Maurya) hangover. But neither does Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra have an understanding of Mumbai as does Zoya Akhtar, nor does Farhan Akhtar gel with Ajju bhai’s environment as did Ranveer Singh. Not that I’m here to compare two very distinct performances in two distinct characters, but they do grow up in similar environments. And I’m not even saying that Akhtar doesn’t do justice to his character – he does to a large extent. But the writing weighs him down at many points. Akhtar and Mehra have together given us the fantastic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. They showed us how to make a unique sports drama even in the said set template. But their Toofaan falls short of what Bhaag Milkha Bhaag had, apart from a big screen release.

What seemed like an inspiring trailer cripples at the hands of writers that cannot seem to hold their film together.

When a sports drama, Toofaan does justice to its genre – there are amazing training montages, conflicts between what’s personal and professional, determination, blood and sweat. However, the training sequences seem a little too many, and solutions to conflicts come in too soon, always. But Toofaan aims to be more than just that. While Indian sports biopics almost always look at social issues with solutions, Toofaan points at the evils that exist in society, without being apologetic about it. And that, is a good welcome change. But again, like the problems Aziz Ali (Akhtar) faces in the ring, even social problems have an easy way out. If nothing, *spoiler alert* death becomes a recurring solution. Islamophobia is at the forefront of the film, and perhaps the strongest element of the writing. Aziz Ali’s coach, Nana Prabhu (Paresh Rawal) is the flag-bearer of islamophobia, and yet he trains Aziz because his friend reminds him that boxing is his biggest religion. There’s a problem (Nana won’t coach Aziz) and there’s an immediate solution. I say this is the strongest element of the writing because not once is Nana made to feel bad about his prejudice. It is what it is, and nothing can change the way he feels. And that’s how majority Hindus are, especially with this government. And the film never celebrates his ideology, it never makes him a hero we need to follow, not outside the ring.

Mrunal Thakur & Paresh Rawal in stills from the film

Farhan Akhtar’s transformation for and through the film is commendable, as is his shift from Ajju to Aziz. He adds nuances to both the personalities and even though this may not be his best performance (for me it’s The Sky Is Pink), he shines. He rises above the matter he’s been given and delivers exceptionally. As does Mrunal Thakur. As an overly chirpy Ananya, Thakur finds balance between overdoing and under-doing it so as to not make Ananya annoying. Ananya is not a very likeable character because she is too chirpy (a lot like Geet from Jab We Met), Thakur never crosses the line she draws for herself. Paresh Rawal as Aziz’s coach does a good job too. He, like always, is dependable. The other (fine) actors – Supriya Pathak, Vijay Raaz, Darshan Kumaar – stand wasted in minuscule roles with attached stereotypes. The writing does justice to neither.

What seemed like an inspiring trailer cripples at the hands of writers that cannot seem to hold their film together. These are writers who have written films like Rajneeti, Gully Boy and yet, cannot do justice to Toofaan. If you watch it just at the surface level, Toofaan seems like a good weekend watch, but if not, you always have your remote to fast forward…

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