Producer, director, actor... Farhan Akhtar dons several hats. The actor, who was last seen in the 2019 film, The Sky is Pink, is now gearing up the digital release of his sports drama, Toofan. The film, which releases on Amazon Prime Video, on July 16, sees Farhan play a boxer. The actor, however, emphasises that this film is not just about boxing, there is a lot more to it! Excerpts from the interview:
You underwent major physical transformation for Toofan. How challenging was the process?
It was a role that needed a lot of energy and dedication. I don’t want to talk about the exercise routine specifically, because that can be really boring at times! It was demanding, physically. Also, mentally it was quite taxing. I had to internalise and school myself with the discipline of boxing in a span of seven-eight months. It excited me as an actor. At no point did I feel that I had taken on too much. I had to absolutely naturalise the whole thing, which took a lot of preparation. Though it was very exhausting, and initially when we started training, I had to lie down several times to catch my breath. I like to keep myself fit, as it helps me stay in a positive frame of mind. I exercise regularly, but for a film like this one had to take the routine a lot more seriously.
Were any prosthetics used to depict your overweight look?
Both Rakeysh [Omprakash Mehra] and I decided that we would develop a natural look for the film, so we didn’t want to use any prosthetics. I believed that the person should at some level go through the journey, before showing it to others that it can be achieved. Even putting on weight took a lot of effort and I was given three months to get that look. I ate whatever I could lay my hands on. But in the process, I also realised that it was fun, only for the first week. After that eating, too, seemed like a task. But that is just a small portion in the film. But for most of the time people on the sets were having a feast, and I was quietly sitting in a corner and having my grilled chicken and salad!
When you put in so much effort, how difficult is it to detach yourself from the character once the shoot is over?
Shooting for this film was done roughly four days before the first lockdown was announced. I was actually stuck in that character and had no one to talk to. I was stuck in that look because all the gyms were closed and I had nowhere to train. So, basically, I was stuck with this role for longer than I had imagined I would. There was a bit of a hangover because I had to live with the character. Looking back, I realise I needed that time because I have been working on this film for almost a year and a half.
Toofan is your second film with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra after Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. What made you sign up for this one?
Toofan is a very different film. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was more about reconciling with his past. This one is more about fulfilling a promise. The narrative in the two films are not at all similar. Rakeysh and I hope there will be many more, because we have a delightful working relationship. I have absolute faith and trust in his ability to tell a story. He has given me the space to do this, the way I wanted to. In return, he deserves the equal amount of respect. How people approach the movie, how they compare it to the previous one is totally up to them. I don’t want to get into those details. As collaborators, Rakeysh and I just wanted to make the best film possible. I have done my best to bring the character to life and the audience will judge the rest.
Do you feel any pressure to have a release after such a long time?
I’m anxious about how people will react to the film, but I am not nervous. The film was supposed to release in November 2020. Then it got pushed to May and now it is slated for a July release. Obviously, it was pushed for all the right reasons. There was no environment in the country to release a film. It didn’t feel right at all. Now I feel people are slowly finding their way back to normalcy and I hope this film will give them that much-needed positivity in life and bring a smile on their faces.
Toofan also marks your OTT debut, though it wasn’t a planned one…
Yes, it is! That makes me even more anxious. I want to see how the audience will take to it. I’m glad that Amazon has lent us their support and have done so much to push this film in all the countries they have a presence in.
What drives producers in Bollywood to invest in a sports drama, since we have seen so many of them lately?
For any sports film that we take up it is never about the sport. It is about the people, the characters. If the story is appealing, the film will be made. It is about the person’s struggle and the human conflict. The sport becomes the backdrop. Whether sports or music, if one can find human and emotional aspect to it, it will find its way to the audience. Every loss and every victory should do something to you emotionally. If boxing as a sport can do that, then the connect is made automatically. To me it is not just a film about boxing, it is a lot more than that!