A certain kind of popular Hindi cinema relished staple tropes: hardy hero, servile sidekick, convenient coincidences, contrasting characters, parental opposition, perilous romance — and of course, template songs. Pleasant escapism became a formula; a formula became a depressing time machine.
Bollywood has done some heartening course correction over the last several years; now most shoddy films find newer ways to fumble. But Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Toofaan, premiering on Amazon Prime Video, insists on using a dial-up connection in the age of streaming platforms.
It’s all in there: a violent extortionist, Aziz (Farhan Akhtar); a respectable doctor, Ananya (Mrunal Thakur); a funny sidekick, Munna (Hussain Dalal); a fastidious coach, Nana Prabhu (Paresh Rawal); debilitating odds; fighting underdog; and an impossible dream, a national boxing championship.
And so it begins, a step-by-step reconstruction of an old formula. Aziz gets injured in a fight, goes to a local hospital, sees a doctor, who turns out to be Ananya (of course). They start on a rough note, keep bumping into each other, and — you know how it ends, don’t you? There are enough contrasts. Aziz and Ananya: feared and loved, Dongri and Dadar.
Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Toofaan, starring Farhan Akhtar, has one surprise subversion in it. The rest is a mediocre rehash of tired tropes
Aziz and Aziz: a ruffian and a softie (who spends his free time with the kids at an orphanage; those scenes are filmed with as much finesse as some foreign correspondents describing ‘poor’ Indians).
Ananya sees the compassionate side of Aziz through — what else but — a coincidence. Aziz watches a three-minute YouTube video of a Mohammed Ali match and wants to become a boxer. Nana, a renowned coach, finally decides to train Aziz, but he turns out to be — what are the odds! — Ananya’s father. Sometimes you think the film is operating in some sly meta mode. In an early scene, for instance, Ananya mocks a nurse (Supriya Pathak) defending Aziz, saying, “Uske haalaat buray hain [oh, his circumstances are bad]” — borrowing a line from Hindi potboilers verbatim.
Toofaan also stays loyal to the Bollywood playbook (“if a recent approach has been successful, borrow its crucial elements”). So, we’ve some Gully Boy vibes: a poor Mumbai underdog as neglected as his locality — rough around the edges, an evident victim of class divide — training to win a prestigious championship. There’s even a rap song here (besides other similarities: same production house and a co-writer, Vijay Maurya). And if such derivations aren’t enough, the central conceit itself, a boxing drama, is stale, an overfed sub-genre that burps in clichés.
Rehashing popular ideas to make a crowd-pleasing entertainer isn’t a dealbreaker. But unlike any creative adaptation, Toofaan is mindless adoption. Mehra, whose films have become progressively worse since Delhi 6 (2009), seems way too complacent, isolating his drama from the possibilities of discovery.–Image reported.