Filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra on Wednesday said it was "liberating" for him to direct "Toofaan", which he believes is more than just a sports drama. The movie, which will release on Amazon Prime Video on July 16, reunites Mehra with Farhan Akhtar, the star of his 2013 movie "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag". Billed as an inspirational sports drama of a goon called Aziz Ali aka Ajju Bhai (Akhtar), from the streets of Dongri, "Toofaan" is set against the backdrop of boxing and charts the fall and triumphant comeback of its lead.
"It was liberating to direct 'Toofaan'. It also had the subject matter I felt very close to. The joy of discovering the film belongs to the audience.
"But here was a story that was working at all levels. There's friendship, romance, guru-shishya parampara, father-daughter, father-son (relationships), etc. There is a social relevance to whatever we are doing and a responsibility," Mehra told reporters during a virtual press conference post the release of the film's official trailer on Wednesday.
With "Toofaan", Mehra said he and Akhtar saw an opportunity to eclipse the work they did with "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag", the biopic of late sports legend Milkha Singh.
"With 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag', we had set the bar so high. We have waited for six years and there was a hunger in both of us to work together once again.
"There was a fear that we have set a certain standard and we were very lucky with 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag', can we raise the bar this time too? the 57-year-old director said.
Mehra also revealed that the core idea for "Toofaan" came from Akhtar which was later developed into a script by writers Anjum Rajabali and Vijay Maurya. Talking about the rapport that he shares with Ahktar, the filmmaker said they both have mutual respect for each other's craft.
"The relationship (between Farhan and me) as person to person, respect for each other's craft, giving each other space to do their thing, and most importantly, what we have shared in silences more than anything else.
"And that has given me a lot of strength to go out and do my work better. It has made my work shine more because Farhan knows the craft inside out," Mehra added.
He lauded Akhtar for the performances that the filmmaker-turned-actor has delivered over the years.
"It's a double-edged sword when a director is acting and an actor is directing because at times they start repeating themselves. Some of the greats in cinema, as we see, who acted and directed have repeated themselves. But with Farhan, it's a very different story. He becomes a part, he doesn't create a part," Mehra said.
Vijay Subramaniam, Director and Head, Content, Amazon Prime Video India, called "Toofaan" an "inspiring and personally relatable" story that will surely cross borders and boundaries.
"I'm pretty sure 'Toofaan' will not only crossover to the south of India but I'm convinced this film will have an international following. We are very fortunate to be able to take it to 200 countries and territories," he said.
Subramaniam said in the last one year, Amazon Prime Video has strived to help the coronavirus pandemic-hit Indian film industry find audiences. "What we have done collaboratively is to help the industry find its audience during some very challenging times. Every step of the way we have ensured that it is perceived by all the stakeholders, right from the creators, producers, talent, technicians to the crew as a win-win.
"Not just in Hindi, we have been doing this across the languages. And the results are out there to see. Our promise is to always begin with our customers. We know customers love high quality content," he added.
"Toofaan" also stars Mrunal Thakur and Paresh Rawal.