Actor, director, writer, singer, producer... Farhan Akhtar wears many hats. Farhan, who started his Bollywood journey as an assistant director with the movies Lamhe and Himalaya Putra, made directorial debut in 2001 with Dil Chahta Hai. He then went on to helm other popular movies like Hrithik Roshan-headlined Lakshya and Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Don movies, before changing gears to acting. It’s been almost a decade since he directed a movie, but Farhan has no qualms about the break as he is enjoying playing diverse characters that are coming his way.
From Rock On! to Wazir, Farhan has spread his wings, as an actor, across genres. Currently, the actor is basking in the praise coming his way for his performance in his recent sports drama, Toofaan. Directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, the movie is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The film takes us through the journey of a local goon, Ajju Bhai, becoming a national level boxer, Aziz Ali. In an interaction with the Cinema Journal, Farhan opens up about releasing the film on an OTT platform, the challenges he faced while prepping for the role, and more. Excerpts:
After much delay, Toofaan is streaming on an OTT platform. Any regrets of it not being a theatrical release?
I have no regrets. In fact, I’m happy that the film was released. When we were making the film, it was made for big screen. The situation then was not what it is now — all the films made at that point were meant to be theatrical releases. But then Rakeysh [Omprakash Mehra] said during the pandemic, the small screen turned into the big screen with varied content available for viewing. I feel lucky that we have Amazon Prime Video as our partner; people can enjoy the film from the comfort of their homes.
What challenges did you face while getting into the character?
It was around nine-month-long training period in boxing for me. While growing up, I watched a lot of films based on boxing. So, I was excited when I got a chance to be a part of what I had grown up watching. But when the training started, the realisation hit: no matter how fit you consider yourself to be, you are never too fit for boxing. It is extremely demanding. For boxing, you need to be physically and mentally alert. It’s actually like playing chess, but you are using your body here; you are constantly engaged.
Which was the most difficult scene to shoot?
It will be difficult to point one scene that may have been the most challenging for me. However, since I had to put on weight for the movie, I kept thinking if that weight was justified. I had a paunch, and when I did the first scene, the weight part kept playing at the back of my mind. But, when I saw the scene later — with me looking out of shape — I realised we achieved what we wanted to.
Did you ever feel it was a risk to take up a film on boxing?
The risk factor is there with every movie we make, just as the feeling that every film will be a super hit. But while making Toofaan we never had that thought. This is not the first boxing movie. There’s Mary Kom, which was a good film.
Acting, directing, singing, writing, producing... What do you enjoy more?
This is a difficult question. However, my motto is to entertain the audience with whatever I may choose to do. Be it then acting, directing, singing, writing or something else.