'Toofan': Sound and fury that signifies nothing

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s 'Toofan' has been one such “watch it, shut it, forget it” experience

Photo Courtesy: Social Media
Photo Courtesy: Social Media

Namrata Joshi

Some films make you feel extremely sad. Not because they tell you an unhappy story but because for all the time, money and effort spent, and the talent harnessed, they leave you with nothing. No thoughts, no feelings. No anger or irritation at having spent time on it. Just a resounding void. Or plain disinterest. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Toofan has been one such “watch it, shut it, forget it” experience.

I couldn’t fathom why Toofan was made? To have Farhan Akhtar to work out and get a certain look for the titular role? To revisit all the usual cliches of a sports film—the rise of the underdog, the fall and the resurrection of the hero, the last punch to victory? It is certainly not to discount the genre itself and its eternal tug, but Toofan has none of it. Not even the thrill of a good bout, the combativeness and the energy and the bristling tension of the boxing ring. It just seems to channel the Gully Boy tropes (complete with the poor protagonist, one rap song and two drone shots of the slums) into a Rocky.

The story of the Dongri extortionist Aziz Ali aka Ajju aka Toofan (Farhan Akhtar) becoming a champion boxer wallows so much in its own virtue, is so self-aware of its purported goodness, that it just bores you. The scene where the poor Dongri ka bhai, himself an orphan, feeds biriyani to a group of orphans made me cringe than have the eyes well up. There are so many fantastic actors here—the proxy guardians Supriya Pathak Shah, Vijay Raaz for instance—lost to playing flat, unidimensional, token good folks. The Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy soundtrack is used unimaginatively in the background that not a single song registers.

Ok yes there is a hatke element—the Hindu-Muslim, or the Dadar-Dongri divide with just the right guys conveniently cast in the roles. So BJP’s very own Paresh Rawal plays the Hindutvavadi coach Nana Prabhu to Ajju. The kind who would order Chinese dishes with rai ka tadka from Shrirang restaurant than from Fayyaz. He talks of Hindu jaagrookta (awareness), the weaponized Hindu Gods and asuras (demons) of the past turning into present-day (read Muslim) terrorists. There is his rational friend and neighbour (Dr Mohan Agashe) who argues for insaniyat (humanity) over religion. His own daughter Ananya (Mrunal Thakur) counters him by saying “aapki soch kharab hai (your thought is problematic) when he gives vent to his Islamophobia: “Quam ka khoon kharab hai” (the community’s blood stinks). But the fact is that both the neighbour and the daughter are barely audible and forceful. A first-rate, persuasive actor that Rawal is, his character’s rhetoric gets much more compellingly conveyed. I was reminded of a similar problematic but more thought through give and take between Amitabh Bachchan and Om Puri in Govind Nihalani’s Dev. In Toofan I couldn’t fathom what the intent was. There might be a pervasive sense of loss and overwhelming tragedy in what Nana’s bigotry brings to bear in his life and those of the others around him, but far from questioning or challenging it, far from grounding it in any sense of regret, I thought the film ended up humanizing Nana in disconcerting ways. The portrayal of the polarization in the family, society and among friends could have done with a lot more than a few token scenes.

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