'I want to fight the villain and save the boy’ says Toofan actress Mrunal Thakur
Toofaan actress Mrunal Thakur on how female characters showcase inner strength
Despite being the ‘outsider’, actress Mrunal Thakur has made a seamless transition from television to movies. She first made her Bollywood debut in 2018 with Love Sonia, followed by Super 30, alongside Hrithik Roshan. The actress is currently making waves in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Toofaan, which released on Amazon Prime Video on July 16. A sports drama that sees the return of director-actor duo, Farhan Akhtar and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Toofaan has Thakur play the role of Dr Ananya, Aziz’s partner (the lead character played by Farhan Akhtar) and support system. In a conversation with wknd. ahead of the movie’s release, the Toofaan actress talks at length about her role and her journey through showbiz.
Toofaan, a quintessential big banner film, was initially going to have a theatrical release. So, how does it feel to have a release on OTT instead?
I think having an OTT platform like Amazon Prime Video, where my work can be showcased as an artist during a pandemic, is a blessing in disguise. The movie is being dubbed in English as well. So, people don’t have to read the subtitles. They can enjoy the movie in English, across 240 countries. Also, it’s my debut OTT film. It’s been quite a journey, we’re connecting not just to the UAE, but to the UK as well as many different countries around the globe. It’s amazing to watch the magic of that one click with which you can watch a movie not just in India, but anywhere in the world!
The movie’s main premise, which is boxing, has predominantly been a male-dominated sport. The trailer also gives an impression of Toofaan being a Farhan Akhtar-show. So, what attracted you to the character of Dr Ananya?
I wanted to grab the opportunity of working alongside Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra with both hands. I did not think twice about what my role was. All I knew was I wanted to learn from him. I wanted to experience what it feels to be on a movie set when Farhan and Rakeysh Sir come together. Everybody’s watched Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), an iconic film they made together. And playing a character like Ananya was the cherry on the cake. I fell in love with the character when I read about her. This girl is a doctor, she has been through quite a lot, but she channels that pain in the right direction. She becomes a catalyst to Ajju’s transformation as Aziz, a champion. What we forget is that there are also a lot of female-centric movies when it comes to boxing; we also had Mary Kom (2014) where the husband was very supportive. The reason why I appreciate playing her is because there is an Ananya in every family, one person, who will always give you that confidence, put you on the right track, and guide you through life. So I’m blessed to be a part of Toofaan, and it is a ‘toofaani’ moment for me. And I don’t need to wait for toofaan (tornado). I am toofaan.
What was your biggest learning having worked with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra?
I observed him very closely. Not for a single moment would he lose his calm, but there was also a storm within him. That passion, that hunger to create these iconic and magical characters on screen. All the characters that he’s created in his previous movies are so iconic that even today, I remember Waheedaji in Delhi-6 (2009) or Divya Dutta in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Every character is important in his films. Like Aziz is incomplete without Ananya, he is also incomplete without Nana Prabhu (played by Paresh Rawal), who, in turn, is incomplete without Aziz. Even when you look at the movie, I’m sure you will see it as a slice of life. You will never feel as though you’re watching a ‘hero’. For those two or three hours, you will sit on the edge of your seat because it’s not just entertaining, it is also inspiring.
How did you make sure the character isn’t bracketed as the stereotype of a supportive woman?
When I was preparing, I realised that Ananya is a doctor. And she has her own life. She’s independent and believes in treating and curing people. I thought of her backstory, which is not there in the film. This girl must have suffered a lot, owing to her childhood, which allowed her to become the person she is today. I often ask some really quirky questions to people I meet in my daily life. And this woman, who also turned out to be my friend, told me that her sister was going through cancer when she was 12 years old. She said, I became a doctor, because I wanted to treat all the girls and save all the sisters, and channelise my energy entirely to that cause. That was so empowering. And I realised that probably that’s where Ananya’s empathy comes from. I believe in vibes. There are two kinds of vibes. One is when people think of themselves as victims when something goes wrong in their lives. And then there are those who always wear a smile, no matter what they have gone through. I really want the latter to shine because they bring out the best in everyone.
You mentioned that you really believe in the vibes that people offer. How much does an actor’s performance depend on the vibe of the co-actors?
Of course. Farhan is not just an actor, director, singer and I can now say that he is a boxer too because he does it so well. He is one of the most secure actors I have met in my life. He would always push me first. Even during this press junket, when I was telling him, ‘Farhan, please take the lead because I am not really good at it.’ He said, ‘First of all, stop thinking that you’re bad, you’re amazing, don’t attract negative energy. Say I’m the best.’ I’m really blessed to have the opportunity to work with such great actors at an early stage in my career.
Lastly, what do you hope this role does for you as an actor?
I want people to look at me as a confident woman. Earlier, they always looked at me as a nice, vulnerable, shy girl. I want to do roles, which are not just daring, but I also want to save some guys! Why does only the guy get to save the girl? I want to fight the villain and save the boy and just be like, hey, you’re safe in my arms.