This man is possibly one of the most versatile and talented members of the Hindi film industry. While most actors venture later into producing and directing films, Farhan Akhtar is one of the few stars with a reverse career graph! He started out with directing one of the most memorable feel-good films - Dil Chahta Hai, went on to singing songs in his film debut and to playing deep and disturbed protagonists. Now, Farhan Akhtar has a rather varied filmography to his credit.
Born to the illustrious and renowned couple Javed Akhtar and Honey Irani, Farhan Akhtar, whose twin sister is filmmaker Zoya Akhtar, grew up in a Bollywood environment knowing most B-Town's A-listers as uncle and aunty. Farhan went to school and college in Mumbai but dropped out to assist in Yash Chopra's film Lamhe, the script for which was written by his mother.
He made his directorial debut with Dil Chahta Hai (2001), a youthful film starring Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna. The film was received well, especially by youngsters and although it started off slow, it went on to become an average grosser.
The film, nonetheless, won critical acclaim. The movie got most of its publicity from the youth through word of mouth. Dil Chahta Hai won the National Film Award for Best Hindi Feature Film. Akhtar also won awards like Best Director, Best Screenplay among others. Dil Chahta Hai also marked the beginning of Farhan's career as a producer as he founded Excel Entertainment Pvt Ltd with Riteish Sidhwani.
Later that year, both Farhan and his sister Zoya assisted their dad Javed in writing the lyrics for Ashutosh Gowariker's Lagaan.
In 2001, Farhan directed Hrithik-Roshan starrer Lakshya, a film about an aimless youngster, who finds a purpose (Lakshya) and eventually himself by enrolling with the army fighting at the border. The film, however, failed at the box office and got mixed reviews. Parul Gupta of Times of India gave it a negative review saying, "It's hard to reconcile to such triviality when it comes from Farhan Akhtar, considered the ultimate symbol of cool in Hindi filmdom."
Manish Gajjar of BBC however, wrote, "Young Farhan Akhtar, proves yet again that he is one of the finest directors Bollywood has to date. He has paid full attention to the script and the technical aspects, giving rise to a polished product."
In the same year, like Lagaan, Farhan and Zoya wrote the English lyrics for another film, Gurinder Chadha's Bride and Prejudice.
In 2006, Farhan Akhtar made the daring move of recreating the 1978 hit film Don, with Shah Rukh Khan stepping into the shoes of Amitabh Bachchan. However, the film had a twist and did rather well at the box office; it marked his first big success at the BO. It earned about Rs. 1.04 billion worldwide.
However, the film failed to impress the critics. Mayank Shekhar of Mumbai Mirror wrote, "As adequate and astounding an echo it may be, Akhtar's film can at best hope to share its space, a rack or two lower in history, to an original voice. Let this be an ample aberration, and not a norm. We usually pay to watch films we haven't seen."
Critic Taran Adarsh said, that Akhtar had "climbed the ladder as far as craftsmanship is concerned [every frame is well decorated and makes a spellbinding impact] but despite a readymade classic at his disposal, the storyteller just doesn't get it right this time."
In 2007, Farhan's company Excel Entertainment produced Reema Kagti's Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd which was declared an average hit.
2008 was when Farhan Akhtar made his debut as an actor as well a singer in the film Rock On!! directed by Abhishek Kapoor. The film is about an erstwhile band formed by friends, which broke up essentially because of ego hassles. While Farhan played the lead vocalist, the film also starred Arjun Rampal, Purab Kohli and Luke Kenny.
The songs were all sung by him and the film was critically acclaimed too. Gaurav Malani of The Economic Times wrote that the film seemed to be "clearly designed by Farhan Akhar as his own acting debut and he doesn't let himself down. Lending voice to all his songs helps him to get into his character with effortless ease. One could certainly overlook the lisp in his dialogue delivery." Also, some preferred Arjun Rampal's supporting performance over Farhan's main lead location.
The film won the National Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi. But was an average grosser at the box office.
Farhan then starred in his twin sister Zoya's directorial debut Luck, By Chance (2009) along with Konkona Sen Sharma and Hrithik Roshan. While film bombed at the box office, Akhtar's performance received critical acclaim. Khalid Mohammed of Hindustan Times wrote, "After Rock On!!, Farhan Akhtar is an actor you look forward to. And he’s unpretentious and a likeable natural once again."
Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN wrote, "Farhan Akhtar delivers a simple-enough likeable performance that is just what the film required — no showy flourishes, no loud outbursts, just a straight off spontaneous act that works like a dream."
Farhan Akhtar had also acted in a project titled The Fakir of Venice, which was initially scheduled to release before Rock on!! and was supposed to be his acting debut but was eventually released in mid-2009. It was written and directed by Anand Surapur. Akhtar accepted the film after he described its script as "very powerful", while emphasising that it "touches upon weaknesses and confusions in all human beings." It premiered at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles and the Venice Film Festival at the ArcLight Hollywood as well.
Farhan's next performance was once again lauded in the critically acclaimed thriller Karthik Calling Karthik (2010), which saw the actor playing a split personality with great prowess. CNN-IBN's film critic Rajeev Masand gave the film 2 out of 5 possible stars, while Late Nikhat Kazmi of Times of India awarded it 3.5 out of 5, calling it "immensely watchable, purely for the class act by Farhan Akhtar in the title role". However, the film failed miserably at the box office and was declared a below average grosser.
Farhan Akhtar then starred in sister Zoya's hit Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), where he played a copy writer, along with Hrithik Roshan and Abhay Deol. Farhan also wrote the dialogues for the film and his performance was lauded by the critics. Mayank Shekhar of Hindustan Times wrote, "Farhan's character is the repository of those subtle, self-mocking repartees in this film. They should equally survive the test of time. In fact, judging by his outstandingly timed performance, it'd be fair to suggest the actor, who's since proven himself as rock-star, dancer, stand-up comedian, TV show host (possibly the most multi-faceted Indian talent -- film-wise, or otherwise) should have played hero in his first film as director-producer as well.
Farhan also won awards like the Best Supporting Actor and Best Dialogue for the film.
The same year, Farhan wrote, produced and directed Don 2, a sequel to his 2006 Don and once again wielded the megaphone after a gap of five years. The film was a major success in India and went on to become the year's highest-grossing Bollywood production abroad with a worldwide gross of 210 crore, although it received mixed reviews from critics.
While the film was for its action, direction and cinematography with Shah Rulh Khan receiving accolades for his performance, it was criticised for its pace and music.
Following Don 2, Akhtar signed up for the biopic on athlete Milkha Singh called Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. For his role, the actor had to undergo training at the gym and study the character of Milkha Singh. Farhan has conducted extensive research over the body language of the Flying Sikh. Farhan had to prepare his looks to depict a 17-year-old army recruit and endure an on-the-spot preparation at an army cantonment.
Farhan is not just a multi-talented star but also a versatile actor and probably has a lot more work to contribute to the film industry.
Farhan Akhtar was the judge on the first season of the dance-reality show, Nach Baliye (2005) and hosted a TV show on NDTV Imagine, called Oye! It's Friday! in the same year.
He has also launched a social campaign called MARD (Men Against Rape and Discrimination) that aims to raise social awareness against rape and discrimination against women.
He also endorses several other brands.
Parents: Javed Akhtar (now married to Shabana Azmi) and Honey Irani
Sibling: Zoya Akhtar (twin)
Spouse: Adhuna Bhabani
Children: Daughters Shakya and Akira
On the biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
"It was definitely a challenge, but it was a challenge that was a very exciting one to accept. I really had to push my limits as an actor because this character is so different from who I am in real life. I am very confident about its success."
On item numbers in films
"I do believe that films do have an influence. More than the item songs phenomenon, it is in the way our heroes romance our women. I think that's a very crucial thing and it has changed over the years."
"I am wary of sequels having to be made. With Don 2 I could finally make an action thriller the way I wanted to. Good story, classic action and simple plot which has one goal and work towards it effectively and dramatically.”