In 2013, actor Farhan Akhtar and filmmaker Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra came to the big screen with the film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, a biopic on Milkha Singh. The film was highly appreciated not only by the critics but also by the audience. And now after 8 years, once again the pair of Farhan Akhtar and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra has come up with yet another sports drama film Toofan. So will Toofan be able to win over the audience, or will it fail in its endeavor? Let’s review.
Toofan is the story of a man transforming from a street goon to a top class boxer. Aziz Ali aka Ajju (Farhan Akhtar) is an orphan raised by Jafar Bhai (Vijay Raj). Aziz now lives in Dongri, Mumbai with his friend Munna (Husain Dalal) and does all the dirty work for Zafar Bhai. Aziz gets injured while beating up a restaurant owner (Imran Rashid) over a quarrel with Zafar Bhai. He goes to a charitable hospital for treatment where doctor Ananya Prabhu (Mrunal Thakur) throws him out after discovering that he is a goonda. A few days later, Ananya sees Aziz buying gifts for the children at an orphanage. This makes him realize that he is a good person at heart. One day, Aziz goes to a gym in his neighbourhood, run by a man named Merchant (Deven Khote). The merchant trains boxing aspirants on his premises. Aziz sees this and gets into a fight with Parvez (Arhaan Choudhary), the player who practices there. Instead of hitting back, Parvez praises him and says that he has a lot of power. Aziz is shocked and learns that boxing can make him a better person. He starts his training. But he still continues to work for Zafar Bhai. Ananya advises Aziz to focus on boxing completely. Aziz realizes that he is right. When Merchant sees potential in him, he takes Aziz to Mumbai’s best boxing coach Nana Prabhu (Paresh Rawal). Nana asks Aziz to fight with his student. Aziz is defeated and he asks Nana to train him. However, Nana at first refuses because of Aziz’s Muslim identity. Meanwhile, Aziz goes back to the hospital for treatment for the injury he sustained in the match. Soon, Nana agrees to train him and turns him into a top boxing player. Aziz is also selected for the state championship where he manages to defeat an experienced player Dharmesh Patil (Darshan Kumar). This is also the time when Aziz starts dating Ananya. After his victory, Aziz is drinking with Nana when he says that he is in a relationship with Ananya and wants to marry her. Aziz did not know that she was maternal grandfather’s daughter. Nana gets angry and slaps Aziz and accuses him of cheating on his daughter. Nana then forces Ananya to end the relationship and remarks that Aziz is doing ‘love jihad’. To know what happens next will have to watch the entire film.
Farhan Akhtar’s story idea and Anjum Rajabali’s story are cliche. The rise, fall and rise of a player has been seen in many sports films. Boxer starring Mithun Chakraborty  to the recent Sultan  Till date, and such story has been seen in Hollywood movies as well. Anjum Rajabali’s screenplay (additional screenplay by Vijay Maurya) is fine, but also predictable. You know what’s going to happen next in most parts of the film. Thankfully, the writing is replete with lots of interesting moments. But ideally, the story should have been unique and the script should have been entertaining. Vijay Maurya’s dialogues are simple and sharp.
The direction of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra is excellent. He executes a cliché and simple story very well. The sports and training scenes are captivating. It is also commendable that in the middle of the second half, another round of the training track begins when Aziz makes a comeback after a gap. Even these scenes are well shot and do not seem repetitive. Toofan, however, has other subplots and raises some relevant issues of society. On the other hand, the film starts falling apart from the second half. Tragedy comes suddenly and some viewers may find it difficult to digest. The film of 161 minutes duration is very long and its run time should have been reduced. Lastly, a lot is expected from this film as it is made by Bhaag Milkha Bhaag director and also stars the same actor. In this sense, Toofan has no match with his previous film.
The first half of the storm is good. The characters of Aziz, Dr. Ananya and Nana Prabhu are well written and presented well to the audience. Also, Ananya’s relationship with the two adds a lot of drama to the story. The boxing track is great but the Dharma angle takes a different turn. The makers have also taken a balanced approach and shown how there are elements in both the communities which have issues of inter-religious romance. Another must-see aspect of the film comes when Aziz and Ananya fail to find a home of their choice due to their different religious identities. There are a lot of unexpected developments in the second half. Aziz’s comeback is spectacular but it is surprising to see how easily he makes it to the national championships.
Farhan Akhtar is in excellent form. While he looks very confident as a boxer, he does very well in dramatic and emotional scenes as well. It’s a pleasure to see him in a film where he gets a chance to shine. Mrunal Thakur is the surprise of the film. Her role in the film is very important and she does full justice to her character. Also his charming smile wins hearts. Paresh Rawal looks brilliant and plays a challenging role with ease. He is not visible in the beginning of the second half but he makes up for it in the pre-climax and climax. Hussain Dalal looks lovely as the sidekick and brings comedy to the film. Vijay Raj surprisingly doesn’t have much to do. Darshan Kumar suits as the villain. But it seems he is getting typecast. Dr. Mohan Agashe (Bala Uncle) is lovely and also a voice of reason and conscience. This makes his character very special. Supriya Pathak (Sister D’Souza) seems fine. Gauri Phoolka (Myra) plays the role of Aziz and Ananya’s daughter. Gaganpreet Sharma (Prithvi Singh) looks brilliant as Aziz’s dangerous rival. Deven Khote is confident while Arhaan Choudhary, Imran Rashid, RJ Anmol (state championship commentator) and Akashdeep Sabir (Mallick; match fixer) do well. Sonali Kulkarni (Sumathi) is up for a scene while director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (IBF secretary) is okay.
Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s music is disappointing and that is also one of the weaknesses of the film. There are at least 8 songs in the film but still none are memorable. Ideally there shouldn’t have been a single song in a film like this. The title track is the best song followed by ‘Star Hai Tu’. Both have been shot well. ‘Ananya’, ‘Jo Tum Aa Gaye Ho’ (composed by Samuel and Akanksha) and ‘Purvaiya’ are not remembered. Rap songs, ‘Dekh Toofan Aaya Hai’ and ‘Todoon Tak’ have no recall value. ‘Ganpati Vandana’ has come at a crucial juncture in the film. The background score of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and Tubi is exceptional and would have made a big impact on the big screen.
Jay Oza’s cinematography is superb and adds to the impact in many scenes. The boxing scenes in particular have been shot very well. Rajat Poddar’s production design and Abhilasha Sharma’s costumes are fine. Alan Amin’s Action Raw. The VFX from CineGens and FutureWorks is perfect. Meghna Manchanda Sen Editing is neat but the run time of the film should have been kept under control. Lastly, special mention should also go to Farhan Akhtar’s fitness team- Drew Neil (Boxing Trainer), Sameer Zarua (Fitness Trainer) and Dr. Anand Kumar (Physiotherapist)- for making him look like a veteran.
Overall, Toofan is a stellar performance packed with some heart-touching dramatic moments. But the film’s long run time, poor soundtrack, cliched plot and predictable story spoil the fun of the film and reduce the impact of the film to a great extent.