Farhan Akhtar’s Toofan is an action-packed pugilist drama, marking his solid re-entry in the genre after eight years of phenomenal performance as Milkha Singh in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Here, we talk with Farhan Akhtar about his Amazon Prime release (releasing on July 16), strenuous training sessions, inspirations, learnings, and more.
Farhan Akhtar‘s first look as Aziz Ali in the Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra film Toofan brought back ample flashbacks of his ripped body in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, along with his Rambo-like training routine. However, apart from the physical look, it’s the emotional play of a refined tough boy that really tug at our heartstrings. Familiar with Akhtar’s unparalleled acting chops since Rock on (2008), we have seen his character development with each film almost like a bildungsroman. And it won’t be extra to say that Toofan has been on our watch-list since its initial announcement last year.
Not a biopic, but based on an idea that Farhan Akhtar had, Amazon Prime’s Toofan is written by Anjum Rajabali and Vijay Maurya. It revolves around the life of Aziz Ali, a local streetfighter from Dongri in Mumbai, who sets out into the world of boxing to achieve something much larger than life. The film also stars Mrunal Thakur and Paresh Rawal.
What made you sign up for the pugilist drama?
You know, it is the other way round, in this case. I had an idea for the story of this film. It was in my head, and I wanted to develop it further into a screenplay before I met Rakesh. So I sat with Anjum Rajabali and worked together to create the first draft of a script, which I then took to Rakesh, and Rakesh heard it and immediately understood the subtext. He understood what is it that we are trying to say with this film. And then he came on, of course, and made it his own. He adapted it, adopted it in his own way, and that is the film which you will see now, but it really wasn’t about me saying ‘yes’ to something because honestly, it was like the genesis for wanting to do this film or the story is something that came from within me.
What do you think Aziz Ali wants to achieve in the film, be a boxer or a champion?
The thing is that anyone can learn how to box. To be a champion, you need to have the ability to train harder and endure more pain than your opponents. Because the person who eventually wins in boxing is the person who can stay standing regardless of the amount of punishment inflicted upon him. Beyond that, there is also a champion in life and how you make something of your life and create something of your life when life didn’t give you too much to start with. Those little achievements and those mountains that we create for ourselves matter the most. For someone like Aziz, to do that is what makes him a champion. So Aziz, to me, is a champion in this film, much less (in) sport.
Tell us about your daily training routine? How arduous has the whole process been?
When I was training, it was two sessions a day, six days a week. The morning would be dedicated to boxing, learning everything about boxing, and as I got more comfortable and more proficient in doing it, I eventually worked with partners. That was the morning routine which was from 7:00 am to 10-10:30 am. Then there was a break, where if we had any other work to do such as readings, costume fittings, and that kind of stuff. Then in the evening, I had a gym session for an hour. On average, every day, for 5-5.5 hours of my day was dedicated to training for this film.
Do you think this role was written for you?
Absolutely! I really feel that. You know the thing is, at times when you hear something or work so closely on its creation, it just clicks in your head. And I just knew from the time of the story of creating and putting this story that this is the character that I definitely want to play.
Are there any key takeaways from Bhaag Milkha Bhaag that you applied to your role in Toofan?
I think the most important one that I consider was the effect of Milkha Ji and his spirit. I remember him telling me that the only thing he wanted from the film, apart from people knowing his journey and story, was to let people know how hard he had worked to achieve his goals. And that’s why his name became synonymous with working hard. He was the epitome of someone who gave their best in anything they did. That motivated me.
With Toofan in the pipeline, having worked on a film like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, I felt emotionally and mentally prepared for it. I didn’t know what it would take to learn how to box, but I don’t think I would have been able to do it without having gone through the Bhaag Milkha Bhaag experience.
What was harder — training your body or learning Mumbai’s Tapori slang?
Training the body is way harder! Regarding the Tapori slang, I mean you have Vijay Maurya doing the dialogues, and he has great wit, understanding, and nuance. So, we had that to work off. And just to jam was the fun part. When you sit around with other actors and you are reading your lines and just having fun. Working with Hussain was absolutely incredible. He helped me and my performance tremendously in those scenes, especially when we are like the catch whiskers guys roaming around the streets of Dongri. Then, of course, working with Mrunal (Thakur) was, I mean she is four films old, but you cannot tell that when you see this movie. She is so good. Then the absolutely incredible and talented Paresh Rawal Ji. It was a dream to have him on board for a film like this.
Will you be interested in doing more sports drama films in the future?
Never say never. But I mean the thing with sports dramas, the effective and the good ones are seldom about the sport. They are about the people you know who participate in that sport. It’s their journey and what they are fighting for. If something like that, then absolutely, why not!
All images: Courtesy Amazon Prime