Many Bollywood stars have successfully transitioned to the role of director. Farhan Akhtar’s is a journey in the opposite direction. The man who debuted as a director and producer with the pathbreaking Dil Chahta Hai in 2001 chose, seven years and two more directorial projects later, to face the camera.
The success of Rock On!! made Farhan, now 40, a star overnight.
The story of this journey — which the actor-director-producer compared with that of salmon swimming upstream — constituted a major portion ‘Salmon’ Farhan swims upstream, rocking the audience on of Farhan’s intelligent and entertaining conversation with a select audience in Mumbai on Monday evening. The Express Adda — now in its third year and a popular fixture in the social calendar of Delhi and Mumbai — was moderated by The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta and Screen Editor Priyanka Sinha Jha.
“I knew I wanted to be part of the film industry but I felt my strength lay in writing,” said Farhan, son of illustrious Bollywood parents Javed Akhtar and Honey Irani. “I wanted to be honest to myself; working on a film isn’t a job done in isolation, so I couldn’t have gone on a whim. When I started out, I didn’t feel I was ready to be an actor. It’s my stint as a director, watching actors at work, that helped me understand the craft.”
Coping with the highs and lows of Bollywood was a lesson he learnt early with Lakshya (2004), Farhan said. “We had all worked so hard on the film that we had expected it to do well. Although it got good reviews, the film didn’t perform as expected. It taught me that one cannot gauge the audience response before the release; they are going to like it for what it is, not for the effort you’ve put in.”
Since then, however, his career, both as actor and director, has mostly been on the upswing. His most recent acting role, the powerful portrayal of Milkha Singh in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, won him the Best Actor award at the 20th Life OK Screen Awards. As the evening drew to a close, the multi-faceted Farhan enthralled guests with a show of another of his talents — by crooning a medley from Rock On!!