Five Times Farhan Akhtar Played a Man We’d Like to Date

On the actor-filmmaker’s 49th birthday, we look back at roles where Akhtar steered away from traditional Bollywood stereotypes to give us new (and drool-worthy) masculine ideals
Five Times Farhan Akhtar Played a Man We’d Like to Date

As the ultimate Bollywood multi-hyphenate, Farhan Akhtar has had a more prolific career as a producer (from Don to Mirzapur) than as an actor. His imdB credits him as a producer on over 43 projects while as an actor, he has only 16. Yet this limited on-screen presence has been significant and impactful. As an actor, Akhtar has played many shades of an idealised, modern Indian man who doesn’t conform to the usual machismo of a Bollywood hero. He’s added glamour to what could easily have been boring — the politically-correct hero. Here are five roles played by the actor that live rent-free in our brain. 

Aditya in Rock On!! (2008)

After spending multiple successful years behind the camera – directing Dil Chahta Hai (2001), Lakshya (2004) and Don (2006) – Akhtar debuted as an actor with Rock On!!. Director Abhishek Kapoor cast Akhtar because not only did the actor “look the part” of a rockstar, but he also had a great voice. Akhtar sang four out of the eight songs that contributed to the film’s massively popular album. As Aditya Shroff, Akhtar is at home as the lead singer of the rock band Magik, creating instantaneous songs out of a broken cup and eagerly lapping up the attention afforded to him. In Aditya, it is easy to glimpse roles that Akhtar will ace later in his career – the childish entitlement of Vikram in Luck By Chance (2009), the modern sensibilities of Sunny in Dil Dhadakne Do (2015) and the brazen teasing of Imraan in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011). 

Imraan in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)

As a relatively new face on-screen, Akhtar’s comfort with playing Imraan Qureshi, the goofy prankster of the Zindagi Na Milega Dobara trio, was almost startling because it seemed as though Akhtar wasn’t acting at all. Imraan might crack lame “Bagwati” jokes but underneath the easygoing demeanour lies the pain of an abandoned child and the perceptiveness of a poet. “You laugh a lot but there is a kind of sadness in your eyes,” says Nuria, the lovely Spaniard Imraan manages to woo without knowing a word of her language. In the same scene, he admits to never meeting his father and Akhtar coats this confession with sorrow and thick shame. His performance allows us to peek into what Imraan hides so skillfully and of course, it helped that Imraan casually spouted poetry written for the film by his father, poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar

Sunny from Dil Dhadakne Do (2015)

If you’ve been a fan of the actor, Feminist Sunny very likely tops the list of your Akhtar-related daydreams. Who doesn’t remember the verbal sparring between Sunny and Manav about women’s right to work after marriage? Funny, kind and carrying a strong moral centre, Sunny Gill offers a much-needed contrast to the Entitled Nice Guy syndrome that plagues Hindi film narratives. The crackling tension between childhood sweethearts Ayesha, played by Priyanka Chopra, and Sunny remains a highlight of the film, elevated by years of festering regret and unsaid words. Sunny might have left Ayesha for a foreign education, but it was only so that he could hold his head high before Ayesha’s millionaire father. Who could hold that against him? 

Niren/Panda in The Sky Is Pink (2019)

The Sky Is Pink is as much a story of Moose (Priyanka Chopra) and Panda (Farhan Akhtar) as it is of their daughter, Aisha (Zaira Wasim) and her battle against illness. As a portrait of a couple spanning over 25 years, the film is a challenge for any actor and Akhtar uses this to his strength of playing both silliness and solemnity with equal flair. As a young Niren Chaudhary (later named Panda by his daughter), for whom crushing responsibilities are but a blip in the horizon, Akhtar oozes youthful charm. He personifies Niren’s cheesy romantic tendencies with a lived-in comfort – perhaps, taking a leaf out of Imraan Qureshi’s book. Later, as an older version of Niren, Akhtar has the calm attractiveness of a man in it for the long haul. What better than a man willing to double down and tackle life’s good ole curveballs?

Aziz in Toofaan (2021) 

Perhaps the charm of Aziz is that of an underdog overcoming insurmountable odds. Or maybe it’s the mind-boggling physical transformation Akhtar went through for the film, from a paunchy dad-bod to a ripped physique. Akhtar plays Aziz Ali, a small-time street fighter from Dongri, whose fists pack massive power. When asked to choose between a life of bhaigiri and respect, he chooses the latter. Despite portraying a boxer with a violent upbringing, Akhtar manages to locate Aziz’s vulnerability as a man, much like he did in Bhaag Milka Bhaag (2013). Boxing, especially in boxing films, is never just a sport – it is a fight for dignity and a battle against inner demons. Akhtar embodied this struggle with earnestness. 

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