Toofan! The celluloid tornado reaches a crescendo!

Poster of the movie Toofan

The multiscreen Cineplex halls are showing more than fifty shows of Toofan while in in Mymensingh, unable to cope with the pressure of overwhelming film lovers, Chhayabani Hall, with special permission from the district administration, has started a late night show from 12 am till 3 am.

In Dhaka, the song ‘Dushtu Kokil’ has gone viral on Tik Tok with thousands either lip-syncing with the jazzy number or, dancing to it. 

Unsurprisingly, ‘Dushtu Kokil’ has become an integral part of contemporary urban lingo.

Denoting mischief with wickedness – this term is being used widely, for a variety of social situations.

While millions are going to the cinema halls to watch the film, there are reports of vandalism at hall premises, where disgruntled movie-goers chanted slogans against the hall authorities for not being able to contain ticket-touts.

Shakib Khan, the super star of Bangladesh, is poised to become the platinum star of the subcontinent, some are saying. If SRK’s Jawan electrified the youth in South Asia, then Toofan has triggered a storm, the young have said with conviction.

As a long time Bangla film buff, I am compelled to look at the brighter side of the sudden surge of ticket prices. That tickets are being blacked prove how Toofan is creating a lasting tempest

A TV news clip showed anguished cinema lovers lamenting over the price of tickets, which reportedly rose from Tk. 200 to Tk. 800 on the black market.

We do not encourage black marketing of tickets but as a long time Bangla film buff, I am compelled to look at the brighter side of the sudden surge of ticket prices. That tickets are being blacked prove how Toofan is creating a lasting tempest.

The Toofan Phenomenon

 Such craze with a film was very common in the heyday of local cinema when the industry was robust, films popular and their allure insurmountable. However, from 2010 till 2020, the popularity of local movies showed a gradual declining trend with the final hammer blow coming with Covid.

It was already a moribund industry and the pandemic came to decimate it. Halls shut down, movie making was shunned by producers while cinema lovers decided it was prudent to stay back home and surf Netflix.

Thankfully, the pandemic is now a distant nightmare and, with several back-to-back hits, Shakib Khan is back in form! Along with him, the whole industry is reinvigorated.

Let’s be clear, we cannot and should not encourage a one-man industry but the Toofan template aimed to prove that the frenzy whipped up by Shahrukh Khan (SRK) in Jawan can also be replicated for a film featuring our own Shakib Khan.

Understandably, where there’s success, controversy cannot be far away. The Toofan obsession has triggered a debate with a section slamming it for being a hotchpotch of several different movies. There has also been a social media movement, asking the rationale for so much kerfuffle over a film, which, as many have pointed out, glorifies ‘toxic masculinity’ ‘objectifies women’ and shows ‘excessive violence’.

I will not say that Toofan is wholly original and, yes, certain parts reminded me of other films although clever new twists were added to ensure that ‘influence’ of previous movies did not amount to outright copying.

However, the allegation about objectifying women seems a bit far-fetched, exaggerated to say the least. The template of the masala movie has made item numbers with provocative language a mainstay and, as far as we know, no actor was ever coerced into a doing an item song.

From what we see, nine out of ten actors take it as their success if their sultry item songs get million hits.

Art house vs commercial

Of course, if one wants to find faults there are many! No film is perfect and, least of all, ones that are made for commercial success and profit.

Do I go to the hall to pick out flaws or, to enjoy? Well, for me, it was the latter as long as the mistakes did not appear too irrational or preposterous.

Movie lovers are not fools and hardly fall for one formula too many times. Toofan is a gangster film and the formula is nothing new. Yet, in the Bangladeshi context, a gangster film with such extravagance has never been made before!

It would be absurd to look for logic in a masala movie, which is distinguished by lavish sets, over-the-top, almost incredulous plots, relentless machismo, item songs in ostentatious attire and fiery bravado.

The mere template is to provide hundred per cent escapism and entertainment. The masala movie is to provide maximum pleasure, make a huge profit and create a feel good feeling for movie goers.

Toofan watchers came out of the hall in euphoria – a mood, which resonated perfectly with the Eid time holiday spirit.

If Eid time is for high spending flashy movies then the rest of the year is fertile ground for a variety of art house or social dramas. Just because Toofan has been an instant hit does not mean the other genres should see a fall in interest.

Far from it!

Movie lovers are not fools and hardly fall for one formula too many times. Toofan is a gangster film and the formula is nothing new. Yet, in the Bangladeshi context, a gangster film with such extravagance has never been made before!

This particular movie attracts because of its opulent presentation. And, above all else, the point not to forget is this: Toofan is a commercial film! A commercial production’s main aim is to attract the maximum people and create a buzz. Some may question the sanity in the melodrama plus the glorification of crime.

Hey, we are not the only country, which does this – the gangster film formula began in the West and that basic foundation got a few South Asian condiments to make the films even more delectable.

As for the killings and all the violence – to be honest, it’s done with such cinematic razzle dazzle that everyone watching it can realise that it’s just fun and nothing else.

A comparison can be the Indian film Jawan, which also sparked a rage in Bangladesh last year. That was also a film following the masala format. Did anyone raise questions about the long term sociological implication of Jawan?

Art house movies with less razzmatazz, a smaller budget made for OTT platforms are also getting the praise they deserve.  However, when someone makes a movie for the big screen the issue about bringing back the invested money becomes a prime concern. 

Toofan is about Shakib Khan’s acting prowess

Unfortunately, without even watching the movie or seeing the public reaction inside the halls, many have slated the demand for such commercial productions, calling into question the aesthetic sense of movie goers. Firstly, it’s utterly wrong to judge something unless one has seen it, secondly, saying that the trailer is enough to form an opinion indicates superficiality.

Honestly speaking, the action, destruction and the item songs will actually slip into oblivion over time.

However, the capacity of Shakib Khan to deftly present two diametrically opposite characters with pizzazz will remain.

If you ask me, I will underline the maturity in Shakib’s acting who, through diligent effort, has mastered his craft.

I agree, ten, fifteen years ago, he was somewhat stereotyped with very wooden expressions. In Toofan, we see his transformation from an amateur to a consummate performer. Therein lies the film’s biggest success and hats off to Raihan Rafi, the director, for bringing out the best in the actor.

I won’t be surprised if other directors also want to place Shakib in opposing roles in future films. I am sure, he will also be able to play the idiot and the suave metro sexual with equal aplomb.

Toofan adds zest to the industry

From a totally different angle, the film brings livelihood to thousands of people working as support cast in a movie along with cinema hall staff. For hall owners, films like these add the inspiration to keep the establishment running. In Dhaka city alone, more than ten top rated single screen cinema halls closed down, including Balaka, Gulistan, Ananda, Chanda, Binaka because of post Covid safety precautions and a general fall in movie going culture.

People are saying Toofan is a game changer – a statement that has triggered intense debate on Facebook. From what I see, it’s certainly is a game changer in the sense that it has added much needed vigour into an effete industry while proving that a Bollywood style ‘dhamaka’ blockbuster can be made with a Bangladeshi star.

No one is forcing you to watch it but if unvarnished relaxation topped with good laughs is something you’re looking for then head for the halls. Chances are, you will come out with a high. The trick is to ride the Toofan and not get bogged down by too many peripheral issues.

It’s a masala film – go, enjoy the spice! From time to time, we need a few ‘Dushtu Kokil’ in our lives!

* Towheed Feroze is a former journalist and a movie lover!

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