Toofaan (2021): The “Storm” Unfolds!

Life is like a boxing match. Defeat is declared not when you fall, but when you refuse to stand again! Bollywood, upon taking this quote into consideration, has come out with the story of an orphaned extortionist turned boxer named Aziz Ali a.k.a “Toofaan” who despite facing severe hardships in life including his retirement from boxing and the death of his beloved wife, resorted to defeating a world-class boxing champion to make his comeback. The film is titled “Toofaan”, which means “Storm”, and features Bollywood’s veteran actor Farhan Akhtar in the role of boxer Aziz Ali. Akhtar has himself co-written as well as co-produced this intense sports drama.

Toofaan
Front: Farhan Akhtar as boxer Aziz Ali. Back: Paresh Rawal as boxing coach Narayan Prabhu a.k.a Nana in Toofaan

The story opens and Aziz, who is an orphaned extortionist, is shown beating up shopkeepers and taking away their money. He gets into random street fights and ends up bruised in a hospital where he comes across Dr. Ananya Prabhu (Mrunal Thakur). Ananya despised him for being an extortionist and ordered him out of the hospital.

One day, while visiting a local boxing school, Aziz came across a video of the legendary boxer Muhammad Ali. He got so much inspired after seeing Muhammad Ali’s boxing matches that he decided to try his luck in boxing. So, he went to train at Coach Narayan Prabhu’s (Paresh Rawal) boxing school. In fact Narayan Prabhu, who was also referred to as “Nana” by his students, was Ananya’s father.

Toofaan
Mrunal Thakur as Ananya Prabhu in a scene from Toofaan

Aziz began training under Nana and during one of his training matches he got defeated, injured and ended up in the hospital again. This time Ananya treated him humanely after she learnt that he had a change of heart and was now taking care of orphaned children. However, she once again came across him bashing up a person in the streets. This time she confronted him and asked him whether he wanted to be a boxer or a gangster. Aziz pondered on this matter and finally decided to quit his role as an extortionist and become a full time boxer. He rejoined Nana’s boxing school and started training under him.

Eventually, Aziz got his boxing license. He began to gain expertise in boxing while training under Nana and started winning matches. Whichever match he used to fight, he was sure to win. Nana addressed him as “Toofaan” on account of his invincibility.

Toofaan

However, things took an adverse turn when Nana realized that Aziz and his daughter Ananya were in a romantic relationship. He strongly opposed their relationship as Aziz was a Muslim and Ananya, a Hindu. On account of this religious difference, Nana disowned Ananya and asked her to vacate his house if she wanted to stay with Aziz.  He expelled Aziz from his boxing school as well.

Now the only house where Aziz could have afforded to stay with Ananya would have required him to return back to his role as a gangster for his old boss. Aziz refused to return to his gangster life and continued to stay where he was presently residing. As that place was not enough for two people to accommodate, Ananya had to stay in a girls’ hostel.

Toofaan

As Aziz continued boxing, he started getting involved in malpractices. He accepted a bribe to lose a match. When this truth was uncovered, he received a five-year ban from the sport.  Meanwhile, he reconciled with Anaya and married her. They had a child named Myra (Gauri Phulka).

After Aziz’s five-year ban term got over, he received a reinstatement letter which required him to return back to boxing. However, he was reluctant to restart boxing and discarded the letter. But Ananya wanted him to pursue his career in boxing. So, without letting him know she went to the licensing office and got his new boxing license.

While Ananya was returning home with the boxing license, she faced a stampede at the railway station crosswalk and died on the spot. Aziz received the boxing license and decided to fulfill his deceased wife’s dream. Nana had reconciled with Aziz after his daughter’s death and used to spend more time with his granddaughter Myra.

Toofaan

Now, it was time for some action! Aziz started his hardcore training and got back in shape. He was all fired up and went on a boxing rampage and started fiercely knocking out his opponents in every match. However, his knockout streak was intervened by a boxing match judge named Darmesh Patil (Darshan Kumar) whom Aziz had defeated years ago in a match. Patil was jealous of Aziz and bribed the referee to unethically make him lose the match.

Nana came to Aziz’s help. He met Patil and secretly recorded his conversation where he told how he made Aziz lose the match. Nana showed the video to the Boxing Federation and they fired Patil on an immediate basis.

As Aziz’s reputation as a boxer spiked, the day finally arrived when his match with a world-class boxer named Prithvi Singh (Gaganpreet Sharma) was declared. Prithvi Singh had the reputation to knock his opponents out cold in the first round itself. Many of his opponents had landed in hospitals with grievous injuries.

The D-day arrived and Aziz and Prithvi’s match began. Aziz was much tougher than Prithvi had expected. Even after receiving harsh blows he continued in the ring round after round. However, the impact of Prithvi’s blows was too much for him and he started giving way in the middle of the match. Nana had the feeling that Aziz needed some motivation and reached the venue when the match was mid way. He started motivating the injured Aziz by telling him to fight this match for Ananya. Upon hearing his deceased wife’s name, Aziz got fired up and defeated Prithvi after an intense fight. After the match, he was declared the new boxing champion.

 Toofaan (2021) Trailer:

The Good:

Sheds Light On Religious Differences Prevalent In India

India is a self-proclaimed secular country. However, religious differences and prohibition of inter-caste marriages are no new things in India! Toofaan does shed light on these facts by showing Aziz and Ananya’s religious differences because of which their relationship was not accepted by the society as well as Ananya’s father Nana.

Toofaan turns quite emotional as certain points as Ananya got killed during a stampede while she was returning after getting the boxing license for Aziz. Her death acted as an ignition to Aziz’s willpower which ultimately made him return to boxing and rise to the top by defeating a world-class champion.

Farhan Akhtar’s Intense Performance

Toofaan

Farhan Akhtar’s intense role as the circumstance-affected boxer did make the screenplay of Toofaan interesting. Several scenes in Toofaan show Akhtar as boxer Aziz prepping for his matches by pursuing a hardcore training regimen. He is shown sporting a ripped and muscular physique which even amplified his boxer character.

Over the years, I have seen Akhtar evolve his roles from a band musician in his 2008 film “Rock On” to athletic roles in his 2013 movie “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” and now, “Toofaan”. I must say, athletic roles do suit him and that’s why I think he chooses to remain in shape most of the time. Bollywood reports reveal that Akhtar had to undergo grueling workout sessions and a strict diet plan to get into the shoes of his intense and invincible boxer character.

To be precise, Akhtar carried out his extortionist turned boxer’s role in Toofaan quite well. I am used to seeing him perform character roles immaculately in every movie he has done over the years. Akhtar’s intense performance was well supported by Paraesh Rawal and Mrunal Thakur throughout Toofaan’s entire run duration. Veteran actor Paresh Rawal, who is one of the greatest character actors in Bollywood, amplified Toofaan’s screenplay with his role of boxing coach Nana. I must also credit Mrunal Thakur who made her debut as a television actress and has gained prominence in the Bollywood industry with her intriguing performances in films like Toofaan and Dhamaka.

A Real Life Boxing Cast!

Left: Farhan Akhtar as boxer Aziz Ali. Right: Professional boxer Gaganpreet Sharma as boxer Prithvi Singh in Toofaan

Real life boxers have been casted next to Akhtar in Toofaan! The film features Asian title holders Neeraj Goyat as well as Gaganpreet Sharma, with whom Aziz had his final fight. I appreciate Gaganpreet Sharma for making his mark in acting as well as boxing. I must say, as a professional boxer it would have been difficult for Sharma to bag on fake punches at Akhtar during the final match. But nevertheless, he carried out his reel life boxer character of Prithvi Singh to the utmost perfection and gave boxer Aziz the fight of his life.

Great Narration By Vijay Raaz

Vijay Raaz is a recognized actor, narrator and director in Bollywood. Toofaan’s screenplay involved his voice-over. He has a gruff and baritone voice which made the narration quite interesting. In fact, I believe Vijay Raaz’s storytelling and narration skills are one in a million in the Bollywood film industry.

Precise Camera Angles

Toofaan is filled with intense boxing scenes which make the screenplay thrilling as well as intriguing. Toofaan’s presence and hardy actions in the boxing ring as well as his heated facial expressions were accurately captured by cinematographer Jay Oza with his precision camerawork.

Credits Go To Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, The Man Behind The Movie!

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra is one of the producers as well as the director of Toofaan. Mehra has directed some of the greatest Bollywood hits in the past such as Rang De Basanti, Bhaag Milka Bhaag, Aks and Delhi-6. The screenplay of Toofaan does reflect his classy directional style which is indeed praiseworthy.

The Bad:

A Plot Which Gets Too Predictable

Too much predictability ruins the story! I am a big fan of the Rocky film series of Sylvester Stallone. If you are also a fan of “Rocky Balboa” just like me, you will know what I am trying to convey here. After all, Toofaan is the story of a boxer who tries to excel in his boxing career and based on my movie viewing experience, I have come to know that screenplays which involve boxers end up with the same gist. That is, the boxer goes to become the world champion by beating another invincible boxer! Same thing happens in Toofaan. In the beginning of the movie itself, you will start getting hints of what’s going to happen in the end and that’s what ruins the thrilling essence of the story to a great extent.

The only difference between Toofaan and Rocky Balboa is that Toofaan was a gangster turned boxer. He was a criminal which Rocky Balboa wasn’t. Also, the story of Toofaan was spiced up with religious differences which prohibited inter-caste marriage as well as the death of Toofaan’s wife Ananya. The rest are all the same! Toofaan too defeated a world-class champion just like Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa did at the endings of all his Rocky series films. So, is it apt for me to tag Toofaan as the “Indian version” of Rocky Balboa? Maybe!

The Songs

Farhan Akhtar and Mrunal Thakur in the track “Jo Tum Aa Gaye Ho” in Toofaan

The soundtrack in Toofaan is a combination of romantic songs as well as inspirational songs. Farhan Akhtar’s father Javed Akhtar, who is a renowned lyricist in Bollywood, has written most of the tracks in the movie. There are several inspirational tracks in Toofaan just like the “Eye of the tiger” in Rocky Balboa. “Eye of the tiger” was a mega hit worldwide. However, the inspirational songs in Toofaan like the “Title track”, “Star Hai Tu” and “Dekh Toofaan Aaya Hai” composed by the music composer trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, failed to live up to my expectations.

I must move my focus to singer Arijit Singh here who has sung two romantic songs titled “Jo Tum Aa Gaye Ho” and “Ananya” in this film. Let me tell you that Arijit Singh, who is one of the greatest singers in Bollywood in the present day, rose to fame after giving mesmerizing mega hit songs from 2011 to 2015. However, after hearing his songs in Toofaan, I am utterly disappointed. I feel Arijit Singh has lost the melody as well as the flow in his tunes which used to make them gripping as well as reassuringly pleasant once upon a time.

The Verdict:

Toofaan explores the malpractices which occur in the boxing world. In spite of the fact that Toofaan’s predictable plot made the viewing experience less enthralling, I must tell you that the film is filled with some intense boxing matches and if you are a boxing or action lover, you are going to enjoy watching it.

Toofaan is indeed a “long tale” of boxing covering a massive runtime of 2 hours and 42 minutes. There were some sloppy moments in the film, as the script was packed up with scenes of Toofaan and Ananya’s personal lives. This made the film lose its flow to some extent. I believe, editor Meghna Manchanda Sen could have chosen to omit some slow patches in the film which could have made the run duration much more compact.

Toofaan’s storyline is interesting, however the film failed to live up to its name. In spite of Farhan Akhtar’s massy performance and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s classy direction, Toofaan failed to convert into a “cyclonic storm” which could have blown away the box office in Bollywood. In fact, it remained a “mild storm” with an average showdown.

Toofaan’s inspiration was the legendary world champion boxer Muhammad Ali.  It was solely upon watching Muhammad Ali’s video that he decided to turn over a new leaf from a criminal to a boxer. Upon watching Toofaan, I am reminded of an inspirational quote by this greatest boxer of all time, “If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, I can achieve it”.

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Overall
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6.6/10
  • Acting - 8/10
    8/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 8/10
    8/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 6/10
    6/10
  • Setting/Theme - 6/10
    6/10
  • Watchability - 6.5/10
    6.5/10
  • Rewatchability - 5/10
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About Subhadeep Ganguli

Meta film critic. Posting on behalf of Nirmal Word Services, content service agency in India.

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