‘Toofaan’ Review: Raising a Storm

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Aziz Ali (Farhan Akhtar), the star gangster at the heart of “Toofaan”, becomes addicted when he first encounters Muhammad Ali’s videos. While unsaid, his appeal isn’t just the boxer’s athletic art—it’s also the name he chose. For our hero, Ali is on his own.

That surname and the belief it represents becomes the albatross on the neck of the Aziz. In “Toofaan,” Bollywood director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra tries to deepen the standard sports drama with the sociopolitical squabbles plucking from the Indian headlines – and somewhat successfully. Coming from Mumbai’s lower-class Muslim neighborhood, Aziz finds himself filled with new goals when he is taken over by top boxing trainer Nana Prabhu (a fiercely determined Paresh Rawal). The gray-haired mentor turns his overzealous student into a formidable talent: a “storm” (storm).

Nana is a devout Hindu whose pain of losing his wife in a terrorist attack has turned into Islamophobia. His passion for the sport exceeds his faith, but only to a limit. When he learns that Aziz is dating his daughter Ananya (Mrunal Thakur), he kicks them both out. “Toofaan” takes a surprisingly bold turn at this point, moving from masterful combat montages to scenes of Aziz and Ananya’s struggle to survive as an interfaith couple in Mumbai – a city where cosmopolitanism coexists with vulgar bigotry.

This short part of the movie is the best: life-size, fit with everyday urban realities, and boldly vestigial in its depiction of prejudice. However, Mehra takes the easy way out in the second half of the movie, with a contrived, tragic twist that returns her to the battered path of the tainted athlete fighting to reclaim her honor.

multilingual
Not rated. In Hindi and Marathi, with subtitles. Duration: 2 hours 43 minutes. Watch on Amazon.

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