« Back to articlePrint this article

'Farhan surprised me by gifting me a BMW'

Last updated on: January 09, 2024 15:43 IST

'He was an extremely naughty child, always in trouble and creating trouble.'

'He wanted to fly a kite at night, and sometimes, bunk school.'

'When I insisted on sending him, we could get a call from school that he had fainted.'

Photograph: Kind courtesy Farhan Akhtar/Instagram

It's been 23 years since Farhan Akhtar exploded on screen with the coming-of-age social comedy Dil Chahta Hai, which he wrote, directed and produced with Ritesh Sidhwani under their banner Excel Entertainment. The film bagged two National Awards, including Best Feature Film in Hindi. In the two decades since, he has made a niche for himself in showbiz as a thinking actor and film-maker.

On January 9, Farhan turns 50 and his mother, actor-scriptwriter Honey Irani, opens up about her once extremely naughty son who, as an adult, has surprised her in so many ways.

"He has an OCD about cleanliness and is a perfectionist about work ethics. I guess the discipline comes from both of us," Honey Irani tells Senior Contributor Roshmila Bhattacharya.

Any special plans for Farhan's big day?

We will celebrate it with family and a few close friends.

We are not into exchanging gifts unless someone particularly likes something.

(Chuckles) It was a different story when he was young. Then, it was about collecting all the characters of Castle Grayskull, from He-Man and She-Ra to the King and the Sorceress, and wanting Walkmans.

Now, it's mostly books since we read a lot.


Photograph: Kind courtesy Farhan Akhtar/Instagram

Is there something that always brings a smile to his face?

(Laughs) Motichoor laddoos and more recently, mawa pedas.

These days half the time he is on a diet, but these mithais always make his eyes shine.

Farhan also loves my Parsi food so though I have a well-trained cook at home, I occasionally make Poke Bowls, a dish with salmon and vegetables which Farhan, Zoya (Akhtar) and Shibani (wife Shibani Dandekar) like.

When his daughters, Akira and Shakya, are over, we bake a batch of cookies.

Farhan himself is a very good cook.

What are his specialties?

He can whip up excellent scrambled eggs.

Also, a Greek-style chicken, a dish which he hasn't made in a while.

I must remind him to make it some time.

IMAGE: Honey Irani with her children Zoya and Farhan Akhtar. Photograph: Kind courtesy Farhan Akhtar/Instagram

What was Farhan like as a child?

(Laughs) He was an extremely naughty child, imaginative and wanting to explore, always in trouble and creating trouble.

He wanted to fly a kite at night, and sometimes, bunk school.

When I insisted on sending him, we could get a call from school that he had fainted.

If I was working, Zoya or Farah (Khan, her niece and director) would go to pick up Farhan and find him passed out on the sofa.

But the minute he was inside the car, he would be fine.

(Smiles) Of course, he would be reprimanded when he pulled such stunts, but he still plays pranks on his friends.

He's grown up now, but Zoya was always the more mature of the two.

What do the siblings share in common?

An unbelievable bond, they have always had each other's back.

Both are good writers, extremely hard working, love watching movies and are clued into each other's work.

But while Zoya is a party person, Farhan has become more homely now.

IMAGE: Farhan Akhtar and Sonam Kapoor in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.

As an actor, which of Farhan's performances have moved you?

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. He worked so hard and almost became almost like Milkha Singh in the way he looked, walked, talked and raced.

The kind of prep he put into Toofan was also impressive. He exercised hard to build a boxer's body and play one convincingly.

I really appreciate the effort that goes into all his films.

Also, Wazir and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. In the latter, his character Imran was so different from what he had played before.

From his earlier films, I loved Luck By Chance and Rock On!!

Photograph: Kind courtesy Farhan Akhtar/Instagram

How were you feeling just before the release of Dil Chahta Hai?

Nervous. But deep down, I was also sure that people would like the film for its fresh approach.

At a time when action dramas ruled came this film about friendship, the kind one had not seen before.

Of course, Dil Chahta Hai had a good story too, unconventional but so true-to-life, and a great cast.

The film did well and established Farhan as a director.

After its release, Farhan surprised me by gifting me a BMW, which I had always wanted but had not been able to bring myself to buy.

What distinguishes him as a director?

The way he thinks and presents his views on screen, so simple and he never goes over-the-top.

Being a writer, he knows exactly what will translate on screen.

Also, I feel there is a really good editor there which is evident in the way he cuts a scene.

IMAGE: Farhan Akhtar and Shibani Dandekar with his daughters Shakya and Akira. Photograph: Kind courtesy Farhan Akhtar/Instagram

A man of many talents, Farhan is a singer too...

Yes, I love his Tum Ho Toh Gaata Hai Dil from Rock On!! and Atrangi Yaari which he sang with Mr (Amitabh) Bachchan in Wazir.

What is his favourite song?

Abhi Na Jao Chhod Ke Kar from Hum Dono and Khoya Khoya Chand from another Dev Anand film, Kala Bazar.

He loves such evergreen, melodious songs.

Farhan is a devoted father to his daughters...

Yes, easy-going and indulgent, but he knows where to draw the line.

IMAGE: Farhan with father Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi. Photograph: Kind courtesy Farhan Akhtar/Instagram

What qualities has he inherited from his father Javed Akhtarsaab and you?

I would say his writing skills, and his sense of humour.

He also has a flair for writing poetry which comes from Javedsaab.

He has an OCD about cleanliness, and is a perfectionist about work ethics.

I guess the discipline comes from both of us.

Zoya, Farhan and I are all early risers.

I have my yoga and meditation, Zoya does yoga too and goes for walks while Farhan is very regular with his workouts.

IMAGE: Farhan with mother Honey Irani. Photograph: Kind courtesy Farhan Akhtar/Instagram

He has achieved a lot in these 50 years. What would you want him to pursue next?

He has his hands full with all that he is doing and planning.

Besides acting, writing, directing, producing and music, there are his MARD (Men Against Rape and Discrimination) campaigns.

In 2022, Meta and the National Commission for Women in partnership with Farhan launched the 'Don't Hesitate, Do Report, Stay Safe' campaign to improve the online safety of women.

He was appointed as the South Asia Goodwill Ambassador of the UN's body dedicated to gender equality and women's empowerment, becoming the first man to hold the role in the organisation's history and serving as an advocate for UN Women's HeForShe campaign which makes me extremely proud.

He won the Kamla Bhasin Award in 2023 for working towards enabling a gender-just ecosystem and driving gender equality across South Asia, a great honour.

Maybe he can devote a little more time to such initiatives.

In all these years, has Farhan ever surprised you?

Oh yes! During the COVID-19 pandemic, once lockdown restrictions were relaxed, he flew me off to the Maldives for a holiday.

After being cooped up at home for months, those 7 to 10 days were so much fun.

Also, I am very fond of cricket and tennis and he got me a seat for a semi-final match at Centre Court during Wimbledon.

I'm a huge (Novak) Djokovic fan and got to watch him play (Roger) Federer.

Zoya and he keep doing these things for me. They are good kids and there's a lot of love and respect for their mother.