Mrunal Thakur on New Film ‘Toofan’ & Working with Bollywood Icons

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[Photo Credit: Tejas Nerurkar, Hair: Laksh Singh, Make up: Lochan Thakur]

The recent release of the Hindi film “Toofan by Rakesh Omprakash Mehra has taken the world by storm. The film follows an orphan, Aziz (the one and only Farhan Akhtar), from the streets of Dongri who grows up to become a local goon. It’s only when he meets a modern, bold, young woman, Ananya (played by Mrunal Thakur), who takes him through dark times towards his true calling, to become a world-renowned boxer. Somewhere through the movie, the adage, “Behind every successful man there is a woman,” doesn’t seem far from the truth.

Released on Amazon Prime Video, the movie rides on a formidable star cast, including and especially Mrunal Thakur. It is because of her character’s presence in Aziz Ali’s life that he landed a career that was his life purpose. Thakur’s journey to Bollywood is one on which it’s worth shedding light. From starting her career as a daily soap actress to now sharing the screen with ace actor Farhan Akhtar, Mrunal Thakur is an inspiration for people who dare to believe in their dreams and themselves. Once she gathered the courage, there was no looking back.

Recently, I had a chance to engage in a conversation with Mrunal Thakur. Through the interview, we got a deeper insight into the character she plays in the movie. 

What piqued your interest to incline you towards taking up the character of Ananya?

“It felt like the other way around. To me, it felt like the script chose me as if I was destined to be a part of that movie to play the role of Ananya. I have waited for a long for a role like this and to work with Rakesh Omprakash Mehra. For me, it didn’t matter whether I would be a lead in the movie or not, I just wanted to experience working with such a sought-after director. 

When I first met him, we spoke about life. Little did I knew that I would be chosen for this role. He kept on trying to gauge my strengths. The character of Ananya is a positive one who is a bold and daring soul. Someone, who keeps reminding Aziz Ali the purpose of his life is to bring out the best in him. Ananya is a liberal, independent, modern woman, and lady love of Aziz Ali who gives him two choices, the right and the wrong one. 

Yes, we do hear that ‘Behind every successful man there is a woman,’ and this movie does reflect that. However, we have also seen movies like “Mary Kom,” where her husband supports her to continue chasing her dreams and passion, even after marriage. So, the world has also started shedding those old norms to accept newer roles of both genders. 

Also, I’m someone who always wishes to motivate people to become a better version of themselves. So, for Rakesh sir, I easily fitted the bill.”

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Mrunal Thakur in “Toofan” [Photo Credit: Screenshot / Amazon Studios]

In brief, if you can describe your role, how would it be?

“Anaya is a ray of hope for Aziz Ali. She is wounded and has gone through a lot of pain but rather than victimizing herself, she wears her pain and scars with pride. Someone who chooses to be bold and wears her cloak with pride. Being a stubborn, modern woman of the 20th century, she decides to take Aziz Ali out of the mud and turn him into a man he was always destined to become.

In the movie, you’ll see me sporting short hair, whereas, in most Bollywood movies, actresses carry long hair. That’s so because somewhere we find it hard to accept women pulling off short hair. That doesn’t look ladylike or graceful, isn’t it? But, in the movie, the director wanted me to have short hair to make people believe that women can do whatever that and can live life the way it feels accommodating to them. If a girl wants it that way, then that’s that. The director was aware of the nuances, but he was bold enough to make the character look different and unique.”

How was your experience working with Rakesh Omprakash Mehra?

“Rakesh sir looks like a calm man but on the sets, he is a storm and wants the best out of us (laughs on that)! I had very bad habits of being so self-conscious and always doubting my looks on the sets. The habits were bad to an extent that after every shot, I would race towards the monitor to see how I appeared on the screen. However, Rakesh sir told me to surrender to my role and his magic. Whenever I came out wearing heavy layers of makeup, he would just tell me to wipe it off to look more raw and natural. You’ll see me wearing little to no makeup in the movie. 

It was through the character that I realized that we women are always in that vicious cycle of self-doubt. For society, we’ll never be perfect, and we shouldn’t even try that. We should just be unapologetically ourselves, and stop comparing our life and appearances to others. We are all unique in our ways, and that’s what sets us all apart by not trying to merge in the crowd.”

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Mrunal Thakur in “Toofan” [Photo Credit: Screenshot / Amazon Studios]

The movie also sheds light on the dark side of Mumbai life, where skilled people remain hidden or unnoticed in dark corners and streets. What do you have to say about that?

“Yes, Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city, that holds somewhere. But, we should always focus on the positives of our life and journey. Nothing at all in life comes easy. We all struggle, and that’s what makes us thrive and learn. Like, I have 3 best friends, and to me, they are equal to 3000 people that could be in my life. I believe in cherishing your success, no matter how little it is. Always surround yourself with people like Ananya, who will be your best critics and will always push you towards learning and growth.”

[Read More: Megan Suri Talks ‘Never Have I Ever’ Season 2 & Decolonizing South Asian Mindsets]

We hope that the film drives people towards their passion and to rise above their failures. May every one of us gather the strength to give ourselves a second chance in life. Also, the major takeaway from the movie is to try and be that ray of hope for people like Aziz Ali in our lives who need someone to remind them of the right track.

By Purvi Kalra

I’m a girl who’s dreaming of destiny greater than she’s allowed. After testing my skill set in the field of … Read more ›

‘The Romantics’: Revisiting the Legacy and Grandeur of Yash Chopra With Filmmaker Smriti Mundhra

The Romantics

If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking. 

I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.

— Smriti Mundhra

As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.

In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.

For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.


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At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.

In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.

By Nida Hasan

Editor by profession, writer by passion, and a mother 24/7, Nida is a member of Brown Girl Lifestyle's editing team … Read more ›