Farhan Akhtar

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Farhan Akhtar : biography

09 January 1974 –

Akhtar’s next project was Lakshya (2004), a film about an aimless youngster finally setting a goal for himself, starring Hrithik Roshan and Preity Zinta. It was shot in Ladakh, Dehra Dun and Mumbai, and marked the beginning of the collaborations between Akhtar and Hrithik. He had to research the army before writing the script and directing the venture. The theme of the film, as stated by Akhtar, was about "finding oneself". He also believed that if the same characters and situation were set elsewhere, the main core of the story would remain the same as the film was not about war, as it had been reported. Post-release, the film failed to make a mark at the box office and became a commercial failure. Parul Gupta of The Times of India gave it a negative review and explained that "It’s hard to reconcile to such triviality when it comes from Farhan Akhtar, considered the ultimate symbol of cool in Hindi filmdom." On the contrary, Manish Gajjar from BBC wrote, in his positive review, "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".

Meanwhile, Akhtar wrote the English lyrics of Gurinder Chadha’s Hollywood film, Bride and Prejudice (2004) along with his sister, Zoya Akhtar after being recommended by his father. The music for the film was composed by Anu Malik and consisted of a mixture of Hindi songs, West side story, Fiddler on the Roof and Grease.

In 2006, Akhtar directed, produced and wrote the screenplay of Don starring Shah Rukh Khan in the title role, a remake of the 1978 film Don, starring Amitabh Bachchan. It marked his first project holding the status of a remake. The character of Don became iconic and popular. Despite so, he noted that he did not mean to be a "torchbearer of the remake brigade" and did not feel comfortable with being credited for the trend of remakes in the film industry. The film released on 20 October 2006 and was declared as a "hit" at the box office, grossing around 105 crore worldwide. It became widely known for its dialogues. However, critics predominantly condemned Akhtar’s direction and screenplay. Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama said 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, Akhtar produced the film Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd., directed by debutant Reema Kagti and starring Abhay Deol, Minissha Lamba, Shabana Azmi and Boman Irani. The music for the film was composed by Vishal-Shekhar, marking their first collaboration with him. Akhtar was supposed to make his acting debut with the project, but he had to be replaced by Abhay Deol as he was involved with Don. The film was financed and funded by Exim Bank. This was the first time Excel Entertainment collaborated with a different director as all their previous projects had been involving Farhan as a director. The story of the film revolved around six couples who went to Goa on a honeymoon. The film opened up on 23 February and received mixed reviews from critics, and ended up with an ‘average’ box office result.

In the same year, Akhtar directed Positive, a film produced by Shernaz Italia and Frenzy Kodaiji, starring Boman Irani and Shabana Azmi. It was a short-film running for 12 minutes. Dealing with a family’s attitude towards a person suffering from HIV-AIDS, the film was shot in Mumbai and aimed at creating awareness about the problem. It also introduced Arjun Mathur in the film industry. Speaking about the purpose of the project, Akhtar stated that "Just as a social stigma, many people believe that an HIV patient should be isolated. They also have certain misconceptions about dealing with the disease. And since India has a lot of joint families; it becomes very important for them to understand the value of support to the person who has acquired this disease. This is exactly what Positive talks about." The film had its background score composed by Ram Sampath but no soundtrack. It was a part of the ‘AIDS JaaGo’ (‘AIDS Awake’), a series of four short films, directed by Mira Nair, Santosh Sivan, Vishal Bhardwaj and himself, in a joint initiative of Mira Nair’s Mirabai Films, voluntary organisations Avahan and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.