"When I started out I was very categorical that I only wanted to write, direct and produce films..." - Farhan Akhtar, Times of India (30 Jan 2014)
Farhan Akhtar has come a long way since he wrote and directed his first film, Dil Chahta Hai, in 2001. Since then he has written and directed several successful films including the blockbuster hits Don and Don 2, starring Shah Rukh Khan.
He has taken an unusual career path by successfully crossing over from writer-director-producer to actor. When he takes on a role, he truly seems to internalize the character, making his performance honest and believable. He generally excels at roles that show him pursuing a dream - and succeeding through persistence, hard work ... or luck.
Farhan Akhtar's work both in front and behind the camera has led to some groundbreaking films. He is keenly aware that he is blazing a path for the next generation of filmmakers - so when he associates his name with a film, it generally offers something worth seeing.
While waiting for the arrival of this latest film, here are the five Farhan Akhtar starrers to see if you are new to Bollywood.
1. Rock On!!
Description: Drama. In 1998, Joseph Mascarenhas (Arjun Rampal), Aditya Shroff (Farhan Akhtar), Rob (Luke Kenny), and KD (Purab Kohli) are members of the Mumbai-based grunge rock band, "Magik". On the way to the top, they experience a falling out. Ten years later, they reunite for one last concert.
Why I Love This Film: The story is a cautionary tale about the importance of following your dreams and the impact on your life when you don't. It is also a reminder that the journeys we take are on often on a road shared by others. In a 2008 One India Entertainment interview, Farhan Akhtar explained:
"The film's basically an emotionally strong story that exhibits the importance of friendships, relationships…the kind of stuff that you have chosen to have in your life. The film speaks about these aspects in a very mature and a deep level. "
The songs, composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, are upbeat and make you want to sing along with Farhan Akhtar, who sings most of the songs on the soundtrack.
Recognition: Won, Filmfare Award for Best Male Debut; Nominated, Filmfare Award for Best Male Playback Singer ("Socha Hai"); Won, Star Screen Award for Most Promising Newcomer - Male; Won, IIFA Award for Star Debut of the Year - Male; Nominated, IIFA Award Best Male Playback Singer ("Socha Hai").
Description: Drama. In a 2009 Sify.com interview, director Zoya Akhtar provided the following description of the film:
"It's a film about people who want to make it in the Indian film industry, how they navigate the turbulent waters and how their relationship changes each others lives forever. It's an ensemble film with the main protagonists being a struggler [played by Farhan Akhtar] and a starlet [played by Konkona Sen Sharma] - they are the key. The main theme is how these two people cope in an industry where your success and your failures are defined by the world outside."
Why I Love This Film: Watching these characters pursue their dreams and overcome obstacles is cathartic for anyone who has faced similar struggles in other areas. Ultimately, the message isn't so much "go for it" as "choose a life that is fulfilling." It is also a delight to see the many Bollywood stars who make cameo appearances in this film. Near the beginning of the film, an acting instructor explains,
"It is easy to become an actor in Hollywood. But in Hindi films it is very difficult. The Hindi film hero not only acts but also sings, dances, does comedy and excels at action. ...it takes a lot of talent to be a hero in Hindi films."
This film offers some perspective on this from the inside. When Farhan Akhtar was asked if he believed in "luck by chance", he replied:
"I believe luck has a certain role in life. But it favours only those who work really hard. You can't sit idle and then expect to be lucky. You have to be sincere and focussed about your work and then you will have opportunity coming knocking on your door."
Release Date: 26 February 2010
Director: Vijay Lalwani
Music by: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Description: Psychological drama. At 5:00am every day, Karthik (Farhan Akhtar) gets a phone call from ... Karthik. These private conversations transform this timid loner into a powerful businessman. But when he tells his girlfriend Shonali Mukherjee (Deepika Padukone) about the calls, his life begins to unravel. Soon the calls from Karthik turn into threats.
Why I Love This Film: Karthik is meak and mousy until his daily caller convinces him that he has much more merit than he knows - which reminds us of the power of the voices we choose to listen to. As Karthik takes a step towards becoming all that he can be, you see him wrestle with flashes of uncertainty as he steps into unfamiliar terrain. Once he gains his footing, he struggles to hold on to his new life. It is a journey that is both fascinating and frightening to watch.
In an IANS interview, Farhan Akhtar explained:
"My earlier films were somehow connected with the entertainment industry and therefore they had a direct or indirect bearing on my life. But in 'Kartik Calling Kartik' I'm totally out of character. Also, in all my films so far I play a troubled introvert. In 'Kartik...' I start off as an introvert and then become a totally flamboyant guy. It's fun."
Description: Comedy drama. In a August 2011 Condé Nast Traveller interview, Farhan Akhtar described the film:
"The story is about three friends - played by Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol and myself - who make a pact to go on a road trip before they get married. They keep their promise and end up travelling around Spain together. They drive from Barcelona to Badalona, through the deserts of Bardenas Reales and then end up in Ronda. Along the way, they have various encounters that help resolve their differences. That’s what road trips offer - a more cathartic experience than other forms of travel."
Why I Love This Film: This is one of the best road trip films out there. Besides offering a great story, lots of laughs, and some heart-warming moments, the film has some great cinematography. Throughout the film, Imran (Farhan Akhtar) recites poetry (written by Javed Akhtar) which punctuates key moments of the trip. As you join these characters on this adventure of self-discovery, you end the journey richer for the experience. In a 2011 bollyspice.com interview, Farhan Akhtar shared his favorite aspect of this film:
"The greatest thing about this film is that there is a lot of deeper meaning about friendship and about certain issues in your life that you get a glimpse of, but it doesn’t happen in a preachy way. It happens more in action than it does in long pieces of dialog. And to me, that’s what really special about the film: that nobody is talking at you and nobody is telling you that these are the things in life that you need to think about, and what you need to do."
Recognition: Won, Apsara Film & Television Producers Guild Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role; Won, Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor; Won, Filmfare Award for Best Dialogue; Won, IIFA Award, Best Supporting Actor; Screen Awards, Best Dialogue (Farhan Akhtar and Javed Akhtar); Won, Zee Cine Award Best Supporting Actor
Description: Drama. Based on the true life story of Milkha Singh, "The Flying Sikh", this tells the story of his life as a child before the Partition through to his visit to Pakistan as an adult sports legend to participate in good will games between the two countries.
Why I Love This Film: This is an inspirational story of love, loss and achievement told through the life of a sports legend. Farhan Akhtar steps into this role with the same focused determination that Milkha Singh demonstrates. In an India Today interview, Milkha Singh was asked if he saw a younger version of himself in Farhan Akhtar. He replied:
"No one can say this is not a duplicate Milkha Singh. He has the same muscle, same stance and running style. He has done things the way Milkha Singh did in his time. I did tell him how I took a start, how I ran uphill and on sand, told him about the weight training I did. Farhan told me he was an athlete in school and ran the 100 mts; he picked up everything so fast. No one can say he is not Milkha Singh."
In an August 2013 interview on ibnlive.com, Farhan Akhtar talked about the impact Milkha Singh has had on his life:
"In all honesty, I've latched on to his life's philosophy. He is so simple in his approach, and just believes that if you work as hard as you can, you will be noticed and people will recognise you for that..."
Recognition: Won, Filmfare Award for Best Actor.
Don't know which film to watch first? The following playlist features trailers for each of these five films starring Farhan Akhtar.