This month on Jan 10-11 three Bollywood personalities I’ve known closely over the years turned a year older within 24 hours. Farah Khan and Farhan Akhtar share the same birthday which is a little strange considering how different they are. For those who believe in horoscopes and sun signs, Farah and Farhan both born on January 9 prove astrology sucks.
Hrithik Roshan is born a day after Farah and Farhan. But this column is not about him or Farah. It is about Farhan a friend I’ve known for 16 years and a rare example of a Bollywood personality with whom I’ve never had any stress or conflict of interest. We share a relationship of mutual respect and we never cross the line of decorum.
When Farhan’s long-standing marriage with the very gentle Adhuna broke up we were all shocked. I never brought it up until he made a mention of it. It was a very rare moment of introspective confession shared between us. That apart we ever discuss his life or mine and yet we are friends who know one another well enough to be comfortable in each other’s company.
What really binds us together is our propensity to chuckle over the vagaries and double standards of life and politics. When I first got to know Farhan he had just released his directorial debut Dil Chahta Hai. The nation and its biggest critics celebrated the birth of a striking director. We were all bowled over by the freshness of Farhan’s cinematic vision and dialect. As the nation fawned, Farhan remained calm. His equanimity remains unscathed over the years. Nothing ruffles Farhan. Not success, of which he has seen plenty since Dil Chahta Hai, nor failure, of which there has been no dearth either.
Farhan isn’t afraid to fall and rise. I am not particularly fond of his Don series. And I don’t really look forward to the next one. But I look forward to what Farhan will do next. He has already covered directing, acting, writing and singing. Where does he go next? Is he more versatile than his sister Zoya? Or even his amazing father Javed Akhtar who after years of prodding, cajoling, threatening and bullying by his family (wife Shabana included) and friends (yours truly included) has not been persuaded to turn director.
What galvanizes Farhan into exploring new cinematic avenues constantly. Is he just curious? Or hungry for new experiences? Farhan’s unique position in the Bollywood hierarchy affords him a view into a multitude of fascinating vocations associated with cinema. He is at once an auteur and a traditionalist. An insider and an outsider.
He is the lonely outsider forging his own path in the chaotic creativity of our film industry. He is also a consummate star-kid born and brought up in the film industry attending as a child the birthday parties of Abhishek Bachchan. Farhan would always envy Abhishek at these kiddie parties because he got to be every kid’s favourite superhero Amitabh Bachchan.
How was Farhan to know that one day he would direct his childhood idol in the war film Lakshya and share screen space as co-actor in Wazir? Once upon a time, Farhan’s father wrote some of Mr Bachchan’s most memorable lines. Farhan now carries the legacy of his father ahead by remaking and renewing Don one of Javed Saab’s best-known Amitabh Bachchan starrers. It’s a formidable legacy to carry. But Farhan manages it with graceful nonchalance. As if success doesn’t really matter because you know what waits at the end that long winding road.
I once asked Farhan how he has succeeded in wearing so many hats simultaneously. His reply was interestingly self-deprecatory. "I don’t think one can ever script one’s life. One can only hope to realize one’s dreams. I don’t allow myself to be bogged down by self-expectations. But it will have to be one thing at a time. If I am directing, then I won’t be acting. The emotions I feel while acting are very different from what I feel when I am directing. Actors have done both simultaneously in the past. I’ve tremendous respect for them. I can’t. As for singing, it is an extension of my acting vocation."
Happy Birthday, Farhan. Keep those hats on. We haven't had a singer-actor-director since Kishore Kumar.
Image source: Instagram/faroutakhtar, Youtube