Toofan, story of a second chance!…

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A massive poster of the upcoming film Toofan, scheduled for release on Amazon Prime July 16, 2021. Photo: courtesy Sterling Global

The upcoming action film Toofan will release globally on Amazon Prime July 16th.

Produced by Ritesh Sidhwani and Excel Productions, and directed by the renowned Rakeysh Mehra of ‘Rang De Basanti’, ‘Delhi-6’ and ‘Bhag Milkha Bhag’ fame, Toofan (The Storm), sees Farhan Akhtar as Aziz, a boxer, and Mrunal Thakur as Dr. Ananya, his lady love. The film also has Paresh Rawal in the role of the boxing trainer, and Supriya Pathak and Hussein in other important roles.

Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar have been together from their first film, ‘Dil Chahta Hai’. They have come a long way together. Filming ‘Toofan’ during the Covid pandemic, was tough, and their expectations are to see it successful globally. For Thakur, it is a new experience, from being in a feature film, and working during the extraordinary time of Covid, she indicated during an interview.

Akhtar has a handle on emotional films. His earlier non-action films have been great successes, be it his first direction ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, or ‘Rock on’ in which he played a musician, or the much-loved ‘Zindagi na Milegi Dobara’.

Toofan, however, is much different. It is the story of the struggles of a person raised in the streets trying to find respect and meaning in life by focusing on something other than survival, and finding in boxing, the solution to reaching heights of personal achievement, but also being an inspiration to many raised on the streets.

In an earlier interview, Akhtar has mentioned his admiration for Muhammad Ali, the greatest, the award winning American heavy weight boxing champion. He has spoken in the past of his toying with the idea of making a film on boxing for some time, and of his discussion of such an idea with Sidhwani. That led to the birth of Toofan.

It remains to be seen how Toofan translates into the Indian context, the concept of black pride, as well as the endearing qualities of Ali, if the film draws on his life.

Akhtar has been in action films. In the 2013 film ‘Bhag Milkha Bhag’, he played the role of the Olympian Milkha Singh. Toofan needed rigorous physical action which Akhtar did. He has said he trained as if he was training for real boxing.

The multi-talented actor Paresh Rawal has played the role of the trainer in Toofan. Rawal has die-hard followers around the globe who admire the ease with which he glides through any portrayals. In Toofan, his character embodies the determination of a mentor, along with a typical toughness, turning the equation with Akhtar into a strong love-hate relationship, a depiction Rawal can carry with ease.

Press conference held July 13, 2013, prior to release of Toofan on Amazon Prime July 16, 2021. Seen in front of Zoom screen, Farhan Akhtar, right, Mrunal Thakur, 2nd from right, Director Rakeysh Mehra, left, and Producer Ritesh Sidhwani, 2nd from left. Photo: courtesy Sterling Global

As Dr. Ananya in Toofan, former television actress Mrunal Thakur plays the person who nudges the street-tough-turned-boxer towards making the right choices. The two develop a close relationship and she keeps helping him up even when he falls.

Speaking to News India Times in a Zoom interview, Thakur dwelt on her transition to films and her experience working with Bollywood’s proven personalities including Sidhwani, the producer, and Mehra, the director, not to mention the towering Bollywood star Farhan Akhtar.

Acting had always appealed to Thakur and she was never shy of the camera, she said during the interview. Always able to make eye contact, Thakur said the camera was her best friend and  and she wanted to spend her life with and in front of the camera, be it television or be it films.

Although not trained at a film school, Thakur said she trained with film teacher Pramod Ghosh for some time. That gave her an understanding of the medium and taught her other skills, required of a film actor.

She said she also learned the technical aspects of being an actor – how to understand camera angles, how to respond to the shots being  taken in a film, and what is expected of an actor on the sets.

She gives credit for landing the role of Dr. Ananya in Toofan to her team, which includes her agent, image consultant, and talent hunters in the Bollywood tradition.

She was introduced to the director Mehra at a dubbing studio where she was dubbing for her other film ‘Batla House’. At the time, she had no idea she was being considered for a role in Toofan.

An admirer of Mehra’s work and films like ‘Rang De Basanti’ and ‘Delhi-6’, Thakur said she was nervous when she met him in his office later and excited to learn she was being offered a role in Toofan. She always wanted to work with Mehra, she said because she liked his intense treatment of the characters, and for her Toofan is a dream-come-true.

Add to that, the opportunity to act with someone like Farhan Akhtar. She felt nervous in the first week of shooting, she said.  In the role of providing emotional support to Aziz, Akhtar’s character in the film, she said, in real life the equation turned around with Akhtar becoming her support and making her feel comfortable on the sets. He explained the story and the character to her including different aspects of her character, as perceived by other characters in the story, thus making her job easier, she said.

Working during the pandemic has been eye-opening, according to Thakur. In the beginning, during the first wave, she was afraid of going on the film sets, she said. She said she soon realized that more people were dying of hunger in India than of the virus, that people needed work and that she had to put in her part. They all had to go through the rigors of getting checked and be in isolation for one week till the virus checking results were back. The sets were sanitized regularly, and everyone took all the precautions.

During the filming, what she missed most was hugging people and sharing her lunch with them, she said.

The pandemic also gave her an opportunity to become a better person, giving her time for introspection. She said she also became more healthy and happy as a result. She learned ballet, belly dancing and kick boxing during that time, she said.

It is because so many people worked even during the pandemic that watching Toofan would be important, she said, appreciating the distribution of the film by Amazon Prime. According to her, Toofan would provide inspiration and motivation to people during Covid, and bring a positive message of hope, that anything is possible in life, that life gives you a second chance and one can pick oneself up after a fall.

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