It has been a decade since Farhan Akhtar last directed a film but the filmmaker-actor doesn’t mind the hiatus as he feels fortunate to have played diverse roles in front of the camera.
Akhtar made his directorial debut in 2001 with Dil Chahta Hai and followed it up with projects like Hrithik Roshan-headlined Lakshya in 2004 and Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Don (2006).
His last film as a director was Don 2, which was released in 2011.
Akhtar, who rose to spotlight as an actor with films like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Dil Dhadakne Do and The Sky is Pink, said it’s a struggle to refuse interesting acting opportunities.
“To a certain extent it is true that the director in me has taken a backseat because of the interesting parts I am being offered. I do feel lucky with the kind of work I’ve gotten to do over the years. When things come your way, it’s difficult to say no because they’re so exciting.
“You have a design for your life but life has a design for you. So you have to find the right balance. But I have also been working towards my directorial (venture) while looking for acting opportunities,” Akhtar, who made his acting debut with 2008 music drama Rock On!!, told PTI in an interview.
The actor is currently looking forward to the release of his latest film as a lead in the sports-drama Toofaan.
Helmed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Toofaan chronicles the transformation of Aziz Ali aka Ajju Bhai, from a henchman to a national level boxer. Akhtar and Mehra previously worked on Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, another sports drama, in 2013.
The 47-year-old actor said Toofaan uses boxing as a tool to cover a larger theme of love and acceptance. “We are living through extremely wounded, fractures times. We get aggravated, rightfully so, with a lot of scratching of the wounds that consistently goes on.
“To apply a balm to these wounds is something we have endeavoured to do with this film and hopefully people sense that whey they see it… It is a film that has a message that talks about something relevant.”
The message of the film, Akhtar recalled, resonated with Mehra when he narrated the basic idea to the filmmaker three years ago.
“I felt it would be nice to bring it (the thought) into a world that visually can create an exciting journey. Boxing for me was the perfect metaphor for the journey of this character.
“When you’re talking about a story of love and acceptance, juxtaposing it against the backdrop of this violent sport just made the idea interesting. From the first hearing, Rakeysh got what the film was trying to say.”
Written by Anjum Rajabali, with additional screenplay and dialogue by Vijay Maurya, Toofaan is scheduled to be released on Amazon Prime Video on Friday.
Akhtar said his understanding of Ajju – a man unaware of his own talent mirrors the reality of many boxers across the world, who have punched all odds to emerge champions.
Their potential alone wasn’t a guarantee for success, what they also needed and so does Ajju is someone who could believe in them, the actor said.
Toofaan stars actor Paresh Rawal as a boxing coach and Mrunal Thakur, playing a doctor and a partner who is instrumental in Ajju’s transformation.
“My understanding of Ajju was a character who doesn’t understand his own potential. That’s the story of many boxers. Boxing is not a rich person’s sport. All the champions we have seen have come from poor, really difficult backgrounds, trying circumstances, who have got into this sport to have a better life.
“But none of it has been possible without them having met the right person, or the right person discovering in them a certain talent to be able to do it. That’s how I approached Ajju – a man living his life that has not seen its full potential.”
Toofaan is produced by Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani’s Excel Entertainment along with Mehra’s ROMP Pictures.
The film is Mehra and Akhtar’s first collaboration in eight years after the massive success of the National Award-winning Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and the actor said the team was focused on delivering an “emotional journey” with Toofaan.
“We have a good creative synergy. But the pressure is not to deliver a successful film. Your challenge is, ‘Can we take the audience back to the kind of place that we took them with the first time that we worked together. ‘Can we still give them an emotional journey?’ With this film, I would like to believe we have done that,” he added.
Toofaan will be Akhtar’s first direct-to-digital release. The film was scheduled to have a theatrical release but the makers opted for a release on the streamer due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The actor said he is not disappointed that the film won’t be viewed theatrically.
“The OTT platform has an incredible number of pros. Your film will be seen in 200 plus countries, accessible to millions of households, on the same day and date. These are the things you could not have imagined six years ago.
“As content creators, we have to accept what is new rather than fight it, because it is here to stay,” he added.