Sir Kenneth Charles Branagh (; born 10 December 1960) is a Northern Irish actor, director, producer, and screenwriter originally from Belfast. Branagh trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and in 2015 succeeded Richard Attenborough as its President. He has directed or starred in several film adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays, including Henry V (1989) (for which he was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Director), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Othello (1995), Hamlet (1996) (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay), Love's Labour's Lost (2000), and As You Like It (2006).
Branagh has also starred in numerous other films and television series including Fortunes of War (1987), Woody Allen's Celebrity (1998), Wild Wild West (1999), The Road to El Dorado (2000), Conspiracy (2001), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Warm Springs (2005), as Major General Henning von Tresckow in Valkyrie (2008), The Boat That Rocked (2009), Wallander (2008–2016), My Week with Marilyn (2011) as Sir Laurence Olivier (Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor), and as Royal Navy Commander Bolton in the action-thriller Dunkirk (2017). He has directed such notable films as Dead Again (1991), in which he also starred, Swan Song (1992) (Academy Award nominated for Best Live Action Short Film), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) in which he also starred, The Magic Flute (2006), Sleuth (2007), the blockbuster superhero film Thor (2011), the action thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) in which he also co-stars, the live-action remake of Disney's Cinderella (2015), and the mystery drama adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express (2017), in which he also starred as Hercule Poirot.
He also narrated the BBC documentary miniseries Walking with Dinosaurs (starred in 1999) (as well as The Ballad of Big Al), Walking with Beasts (2001) and Walking with Monsters (2005). Branagh has been nominated for five Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, and has won three BAFTAs, and an Emmy. He was appointed a knight bachelor in the 2012 Birthday Honours and was knighted on 9 November 2012. He was made a Freeman of his native city of Belfast in January 2018.
Branagh, the middle of three children, was born in Belfast, the son of working-class Protestant parents Frances (née Harper) and William Branagh, a plumber and joiner who ran a company that specialised in fitting partitions and suspended ceilings. At the age of nine, he moved with his family to Reading, Berkshire, England, to escape the Troubles. He was educated at Grove Primary School, Whiteknights Primary School, then Meadway School, Tilehurst, where he appeared in school productions such as Toad of Toad Hall and Oh, What a Lovely War!. At school, he acquired Received Pronunciation to avoid bullying. On his identity today he has said, "I feel Irish. I don't think you can take Belfast out of the boy," and he attributes his "love of words" to his Irish heritage. He is known to have attended the (amateur) Reading Cine & Video Society (now called Reading Film & Video Makers) as a member and was a keen member of Progress Theatre for whom he is now the patron. Branagh went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
Branagh achieved some early measure of success in his native Northern Ireland for his role as Billy, the title character in the BBC's Play for Today trilogy known as the Billy Plays (1982–84), written by Graham Reid and set in Belfast.
He received acclaim in the UK for his stage performances, first winning the 1982 SWET Award for Best Newcomer, for his role as Judd in Julian Mitchell's Another Country, immediately after leaving RADA. Branagh was part of the 'new wave’ of actors to emerge from the Academy. Others included Jonathan Pryce, Juliet Stevenson, Alan Rickman, Anton Lesser, Bruce Payne and Fiona Shaw. In 1984 he appeared in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Henry V, directed by Adrian Noble. The production played to full houses, especially at the Barbican in London. It was this production that he adapted for the film version of the play in 1989. He and David Parfitt founded the Renaissance Theatre Company in 1987, following success with several productions on the London 'Fringe', including Branagh's full-scale production of Romeo and Juliet at the Lyric Studio, co-starring with Samantha Bond. The first major Renaissance production was Branagh's Christmas 1987 staging of Twelfth Night at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, starring Richard Briers as Malvolio and Frances Barber as Viola, and with an original score by actor, musician and composer Patrick Doyle, who two years later was to compose the music for Branagh's film adaptation of Henry V. This Twelfth Night was later adapted for television.
Branagh became a major presence in the media and on the British stage when Renaissance collaborated with Birmingham Rep for a 1988 touring season of three Shakespeare plays under the umbrella title of Renaissance Shakespeare on the Road, which also played a repertory season at the Phoenix Theatre in London. It featured directorial debuts for Judi Dench with Much Ado About Nothing (starring Branagh and Samantha Bond as Benedick and Beatrice), Geraldine McEwan with As You Like It, and Derek Jacobi directing Branagh in the title role in Hamlet, with Sophie Thompson as Ophelia. Critic Milton Shulman of the London Evening Standard wrote: "On the positive side Branagh has the vitality of Olivier, the passion of Gielgud, the assurance of Guinness, to mention but three famous actors who have essayed the role. On the negative side, he has not got the magnetism of Olivier, nor the mellifluous voice quality of Gielgud nor the intelligence of Guinness."
A year later in 1989 Branagh co-starred with Emma Thompson in the Renaissance revival of Look Back in Anger. Judi Dench directed both the theatre and television productions, presented first in Belfast then at the London Coliseum and Lyric Theatre.
In 2002, Branagh starred at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield as Richard III. In 2003 he starred in the Royal National Theatre's production of David Mamet's Edmond. Branagh directed The Play What I Wrote in England in 2001 and directed a Broadway production in 2003. From September to November 2008, Branagh appeared at Wyndham's Theatre as the title character in the Donmar West End revival of Anton Chekhov's Ivanov in a new version by Tom Stoppard. His performance was lauded as the "performance of the year" by several critics. It won him the Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Male Performance but did not get him a Laurence Olivier Award nomination, to the surprise of critics.
In July 2013 he co-directed Macbeth at Manchester International Festival with Rob Ashford. With Branagh in the title role, Alex Kingston played Lady Macbeth and Ray Fearon featured as Macduff. The final performance of the completely sold out run, was broadcast to cinemas on 20 July as part of National Theatre Live. He repeated his performance and directorial duties opposite Ashford and Kingston when the production moved to New York City's Park Avenue Armory in June 2014. The production marked his New York stage debut.
In April 2015, Branagh announced his formation of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, in which he would appear as actor-manager. With the company, he announced he will present a season of five shows at London's Garrick Theatre from October 2015 – November 2016. The shows will be The Winter's Tale, a double bill of Harlequinade and All On Her Own, Red Velvet, The Painkiller, Romeo and Juliet and The Entertainer. Branagh will direct all but The Entertainer, in which he will star. Branagh will also star in The Winter's Tale, Harlequinade and The Painkiller. Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company also includes Judi Dench (The Winter's Tale), Zoë Wanamaker (Harlequinade/All On Her Own), Derek Jacobi, Lily James and Richard Madden (Romeo and Juliet) and Rob Brydon (The Painkiller). Kenneth Branagh Season In September 2015 was announced that The Winter's Tale, Romeo and Juliet and The Entertainer will be broadcast in cinemas, in partnership with Picturehouse Entertainment.
Branagh is known for his film adaptations of William Shakespeare, beginning with Henry V (1989), followed by Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996), Love's Labour's Lost (2000) and As You Like It (2006). As You Like It premiered in theatres in Europe, but was sent directly to television in the U.S., where it aired on HBO in August 2007. He was rumored to have been under consideration for the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
Notable non-Shakespeare films in which Branagh has appeared include Dead Again (1991) and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), both of which he also directed, Wild Wild West (1999), Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) and Valkyrie (2008). He starred as Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). He also played the Minister, Dormandy (a parody of PMGTony Benn), in the film The Boat That Rocked (2009).
Although he had a notable uncredited role as SS-Sturmbannführer Knopp in director Thomas Carter's 1993 film Swing Kids, between 1989 and 1996 Branagh mostly directed his own films, including Peter's Friends, with an outstanding cast including former student friends Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, Tony Slattery and Stephen Fry, as well as Imelda Staunton and Rita Rudner; but the commercial and critical failure of Love's Labour's Lost ended his directorial career for a time. In 2006, the same year that Branagh's film version of As You Like It was released, he also directed a film version of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute, which has yet to be released in the U.S., where it has not even been shown on cable television or released on a Region 1 DVD. Branagh has also directed the thriller Sleuth (2007), a remake of the 1972 film. At a film promotion for Valkyrie in 2008, Branagh confirmed that he would be directing Thor, a film based on the Marvel superhero.Thor, Branagh's return to big-budget directing, was released on 6 May 2011. In 2011, Branagh portrayed Sir Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn. Branagh directed Disney's live-action version of Cinderella (2015). Branagh played a Royal Navy Commander in Christopher Nolan's 2017 action-thriller Dunkirk, based on the British military evacuation of the French city of Dunkirk in 1940 during World War II. The film also starred Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy and Harry Styles.
Branagh directed and starred in a film adaptation of Agatha Christie's detective novel Murder on the Orient Express (2017). Production began in London in November 2016, and also starred Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley and Johnny Depp. Like Branagh's Hamlet in 1996, it is among the very few to use 65mm film cameras since 1970.
Branagh has also been involved in several made-for-TV films. Among his most acclaimed portrayals is that of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the film Warm Springs (2005), for which he received an Emmy Award nomination. Though the film received 16 Emmy nominations, winning five (including Best Made-For-Television Film), Branagh did not win the award for his portrayal. He did, though, receive an Emmy for his portrayal of SS leader Reinhard Heydrich in the TV film Conspiracy (2001), a depiction of the Wannsee Conference, where Nazi officials decided on the Final Solution. In 2002 Branagh starred in the two-part television movie Shackleton, a dramatization of the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition's battle for survival, for which he was nominated for a BAFTA award and an Emmy. In 1998 he narrated the twenty-four episode documentary series Cold War. Branagh also narrated the BBC documentaries Walking with Dinosaurs, World War 1 in Colour, Walking with Beasts and Walking with Monsters, and the BBC miniseries Great Composers.
Branagh is the star of the English-language Wallander television series, adaptations of Henning Mankell's best-selling Wallander crime novels. Branagh plays the eponymous Inspector Kurt Wallander and also serves as the executive producer of the series. The first series of three episodes were broadcast on BBC One in November and December 2008. Branagh won the award for best actor at the 35th Broadcasting Press Guild Television and Radio Awards (2009). It was his first major television award win in the UK. He received his first BAFTA TV on 26 April 2009 for the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series. For his performance in the episode One Step Behind, he was nominated in the Outstanding Actor, Miniseries or Movie category of the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards. The role also gained him a nomination for Best Actor at the 2009 Crime Thriller Awards. The second Wallander series of three episodes aired initially in January 2010 on the BBC, and the third season aired in July 2012. The fourth and final series was shot from October 2014 to January 2015 and premiered on German TV, dubbed into German, in December 2015; it aired in the UK, with its original English soundtrack, in May and June 2016.
Branagh has also played the title role in BBC radio broadcasts of Hamlet and Cyrano de Bergerac, and the role of Edmund in King Lear.
Branagh has narrated several audiobooks, such as The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis.
Branagh participated in the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony portraying Isambard Kingdom Brunel during the Industrial Revolution segment, “pandemonium” giving the speech from The Tempest originally read by the character Caliban.
From 1989 to 1995, Branagh was married to actress Emma Thompson. They appeared together in Fortunes of War, Look Back in Anger, Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Dead Again, and Peter's Friends. More recently, they both appeared in The Boat That Rocked, though with no shared scenes. During their marriage, and while directing and co-starring with Helena Bonham Carter in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, he began an affair with Bonham Carter. After Thompson divorced him, he and Bonham Carter were in a well-publicised relationship for several years. In 2003, he married film art director Lindsay Brunnock, whom he met during the shooting of Shackleton.
He is a fan of English football club Tottenham Hotspur, Northern Irish football club Linfield and Scottish football club Rangers.
Branagh has been nominated for five Academy Awards, the first man to be nominated for five different categories. His first two nominations were for Henry V (one each for directing and acting). He also received similar BAFTA Award nominations for his film work, winning one for his direction. His first BAFTA TV award came in April 2009, for Best Drama Series (Wallander). Branagh's two other Academy Award nominations were for the 1992 film short subjectSwan Song and for his work on the screenplay of Hamlet in 1996. His most recent is for his portrayal of Lord Laurence Olivier in My Week With Marilyn.
He is Honorary President of NICVA (the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action). He received an honorary Doctorate in Literature from Queen's University of Belfast in 1990. He is also a patron for the charity Over The Wall.
Branagh was the youngest actor to receive the Golden Quill (also known as the Gielgud Award) in 2000. In 2001 he was appointed an honorary Doctor of Literature at the Shakespeare Institute of The University of Birmingham; the Shakespeare Institute Library keeps the archive of his Renaissance Theatre Company and Renaissance Films.
Alongside Roberto Benigni, he is one of only two non-American actors to be nominated for Oscars for acting, writing, and directing, and one of eight actors to have achieved this honour. The other six are Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, George Clooney, John Huston and John Cassavetes. On 10 July 2009, Branagh was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the RomaFictionFest.
He was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to drama and to the community in Northern Ireland. He received the accolade at Buckingham Palace on 9 November 2012; afterwards, Branagh told a BBC reporter that he was "humble, elated, and incredibly lucky" to be knighted.
In October 2015, it was announced that Branagh would be the new President of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), succeeding the late Lord Attenborough. As the President of RADA and one of the highest profile actors and filmmakers in contemporary British popular culture, Branagh appeared on Debrett's 2017 list of the most influential people in the UK.
In October 2017, it was announced that Branagh would be conferred with the Freedom of the City of Belfast. The honour was officially conferred on him by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister, at a ceremony in the Ulster Hall, Belfast, on 30 January 2018.
Main article: Kenneth Branagh filmography
Awards and nominations
Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Kenneth Branagh
Branagh has frequently collaborated with certain actors on multiple films, most notably Brian Blessed, Patrick Doyle, Derek Jacobi, Jimmy Yuill, Emma Thompson, and the late Richard Briers.
1Although Doyle has composed music for many of Branagh's films, he is listed in the above table for his appearances as an actor.
2Although Yuill has also composed music for multiple Branagh films, he is listed in the above table for his appearances as an actor.
Farhan Akhtar (born 9 January 1974) is an Indian film director, screenwriter, producer, actor, playback singer and television host. Born in Mumbai to screenwriters Javed Akhtar and Honey Irani, he grew up under the influence of the Hindi film industry. He began his career in Bollywood by working as an assistant director in Lamhe (1991) and Himalay Putra (1997).
Akhtar, after establishing a production company named Excel Entertainment along with Ritesh Sidhwani, made his directorial debut with Dil Chahta Hai (2001) and received critical acclaim for portraying modern youth. The film also won a National award. Following it, he made Lakshya (2004) and had his Hollywood debut through the soundtrack of Bride and Prejudice (2004), for which he wrote the lyrics. He went on to make the commercially successful Don (2006). He directed a short film titled Positive (2007), to spread awareness on HIV-AIDS.
Although he initially started his acting career with "The Fakir of Venice", his official debut was with Rock On!! (2008), for which he won a second National Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi as producer, and indulged in further experimentation before he wrote the dialogues, produced and acted for the critical and commercial success Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), which won him two Filmfare Awards, including Best Supporting Actor. In the same year, he directed a sequel to Don titled Don 2 (2011), which remains his highest-grossing film till date. He achieved further success by portraying Milkha Singh in the 2013 film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, earning him the Filmfare Award for Best Actor. In 2016, Akhtar received praise for starring in the crime thriller Wazir and the comedy drama Dil Dhadakne Do.
Early and personal life
Farhan Akhtar was born to screenwriters Javed Akhtar and Honey Irani in Mumbai. His sister is writer–director Zoya Akhtar. His parents divorced during his early days, and his father married Shabana Azmi in 1984. Akhtar has termed his parents the "harshest" critics in his career, and also considered Robert De Niro as an "inspiration" in the film industry. Akhtar is of ZoroastrianIrani origin, from his mother's side. Akhtar grew up in an agnostic environment and along with his sister Zoya and father Javed Akhtar, he does not believe in any religion.
His grandfather, Fazl-e-Haq Khairabadi, a scholar of Islamic studies and theology, notably edited the first diwan of Mirza Ghalib on his request, and later became an important figure during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 in his native Khairabad. He is the grandson of renowned Urdu poet Muztar Khairabadi and grandson of Jan Nisar Akhtar. He is also the cousin of Farah Khan and Sajid Khan. He did his schooling from Maneckji Cooper school in Mumbai, and went on to study for a law degree from the HR College, also in Mumbai, during which he was dismissed from the institution in his second year due to lack of attendance.
He married Adhuna Bhabani in 2000, after being in a relationship with her for 3 years. They first met during the filming of his directorial debut Dil Chahta Hai in 2001, which also marked Adhuna's debut as a Bollywood hairstylist. The couple have two daughters named Shakya and Akira. On 21 January 2016 the couple officially announced their separation after 16 years of marriage.
Akhtar worked as an apprentice in film distribution and direction for Yash Chopra's Lamhe (1991) when he was 17 years old and later shifted to an advertisement production house named "Script Shop" to spend an approximate 3 years there. He also assisted Pankaj Parashar as a director in Himalay Putra (1997) before launching himself into direction and writing.
Directing, writing and producing
Akhtar made his writing and directorial debut with the critically acclaimed film Dil Chahta Hai (2001), produced by Excel Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., a production company he established along with Ritesh Sidhwani in 1999. It was shot over a period of three months in Sydney, Goa and Mumbai. Due to its acclaim, he called it a "turning point" in his career. The film dealt with the lives of westernised urban youth in Mumbai. Akhtar had written the script based on his trips to Goa and New York, as well as a narration of a story outline by a friend of his. It received international critical acclaim and attained an iconic status, with Akhtar receiving credit for starting a "new wave" in Indian cinema. Critic Ziya Us Salam praised Akhtar's direction and commented for The Hindu: "In his maiden venture, Javed Akhtar's son shows enough glimpses of his pedigree to indicate that promise will attain fulfilment sooner than later." Various award shows conferred accolades on the film and nominated it for several categories. The year's National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi for 2002 was won by the film. It was also screened at the International Film Festival of India, the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and the Austin Film Festival. In the same year, he and his sister Zoya Akhtar assisted their father in writing the English lyrics of a song in Lagaan, for which the soundtrack was scored by A. R. Rahman.
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 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 this, 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 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 had 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.
Akhtar's first project in 2011 was the dramathrillerGame, directed by Abhinay Deo. The lead cast consisted of Abhishek Bachchan, Kangana Ranaut, Boman Irani and Jimmy Shergill. He wrote the dialogues and produced the venture. The film received highly negative reviews after release, with critics panning almost all the aspects of it. At the box office, it had a poor opening, and later resulted in giving losses for the distributors, due to a heavily negative word-of-mouth. It was described as a "washout" by trade analysts.
Later that year, Akhtar wrote, produced and directed Don 2, a sequel to his 2006 Don. It marked his return to direction after a gap of nearly 5 years. His decision of making a sequel was explained by him in an interview: "I am wary of sequels having to be made. With Don 2 I could finally make an action thriller the way I wanted to. Good story, classic action and simple plot which has one goal and work towards it effectively and dramatically." The film was a major success in India and went on to become the year's highest-grossing Bollywood production abroad with a worldwide gross of ₹210 crore. It received mixed to positive reviews from critics, with Khalid Mohammed stating: "Throughout, you can’t help feeling that Farhan Akhtar could have made three far more valuable films out of the budget squandered on this thriller where cars are smashed as if they were tea cups."
Next year, Akhtar produced and wrote the dialogues of the neo-noir thriller Talaash: The Answer Lies Within. His production work was followed by the comedy films: Fukrey (2013) and Bangistan (2015), Baar Baar Dekho (2016), Raees and Fukrey Returns (both in 2017).
Acting and singing
In 2008, Akhtar made his acting and singing debut in a musical film titled Rock On!!, for which he wrote the dialogues and also produced. The film was directed by Abhishek Kapoor. Prachi Desai, Arjun Rampal and Purab Kohli co-starred along with him. As he had been learning guitar ever since the start of his directing career, he had been well-versed with it and used it for the film. The role played by him was that of Aditya, lead singer of the rock band "Magik". He sang five songs for the soundtrack album. The film was acclaimed by critics and received positive reviews upon release. Gaurav Malani of The Economic Times wrote that the film seemed to be "clearly designed by Farhan Akhar as his own acting debut and he doesn't let himself down. Lending voice to all his songs helps him to get into his character with effortless ease. One could certainly overlook the lisp in his dialogue delivery." Manish Gajjar of BBC wrote of his performance: "Director-turned-actor, Farhan Aktar surprises all with his superb, flawless performance, transforming from a hippy-style lead-singer to a subdued, dismal workaholic banker." Akhtar received several accolades for his debut performance. The film, in addition won the National Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi. However, it did not create an impact at the box office and turned out to be an "average" grosser.
After refusing an offer to sing a song for A. R. Rahman's album Blue, Akhtar acted in, and produced his sister Zoya's directorial and written debut Luck By Chance, which had Hrithik Roshan and Konkona Sen Sharma in the lead roles. He was cast in the film after being deemed as a "perfect choice" for it. The story of the film revolved around a struggling actor who arrives in Mumbai to become a film star. It was released on 30 January 2009. Though failing to do well at the box office and being declared a "flop", the film received generally positive reviews from critics. Neil Genzlinger from The New York Times said: "It is Mr. Akhtar whose understated performance holds together this far-ranging, cameo-filled film. He manages to remain sympathetic even while wreaking romantic havoc."Rajeev Masand noted: "Farhan Akhtar delivers a simple-enough likeable performance that is just what the film required — no showy flourishes, no loud outbursts, just a straight off spontaneous act that works like a dream."
Following Luck By Chance, Akhtar acted in a project titled The Fakir of Venice, which was initially scheduled to release before Rock on!! and was supposed to be his acting debut. Due to several delays, it was released in mid-2009. It was written and directed by Anand Surapur, and accepted by Akhtar after he described its script as "very powerful", while emphasising that it "touches upon weaknesses and confusions in all human beings." Before release, it premiered at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, and the Venice Film Festival at the ArcLight Hollywood. Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter praised the film and felt that "Akhtar, a producer, director and writer making his film debut here as an actor, is talented and handsome enough – and with looks that could translate into any number of ethnicities – to have a huge career ahead of him."
Akhtar acted in, and produced his next film Karthik Calling Karthik (2010), a psychological thriller directed by Vijay Lalwani. He played Karthik, an introvert character, starring alongside Deepika Padukone for the first time. Preparation for the role involved working on the Rubik's Cube, which he learnt from the director. The film received mixed reviews and praise for Akhtar's acting from critics, with Sukanya Verma highlighting that "He conveys the anxiety, simplicity and frailty of Karthik even when the script isn't doing it for him. Perhaps it's his innate filmmaker instinct." The film had a good opening at the box office, as it was targeted towards the youth of the multiplexes. However, it failed to continue on its business and went on to become a "below average" grosser.
Akhtar produced and appeared as one of the three leads in his sister, Zoya Akhtar's coming-of-age film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara along with Hrithik Roshan and Abhay Deol, Katrina Kaif and Kalki Koechlin, starring opposite Ariadna Cabrol. He was also credited as the dialogue writer for the film. He was the first actor to be cast in the film, and described his role as a "fun character" and a "guy who for the longest time takes nothing seriously." His real life father, Javed Akhtar wrote poetry for the film, which he performs as a voice-over. His performance was favourably received by critics, with Shaikh Ayaz of Rediff.com highlighting his dialogues as "gentle, they won't make you ROFL; they are more like tender dig in the ribs." Kaveree Bamzai of India Today called his acting "sensitive, soulful", further saying that he was "perfectly capable of reading out his father's poetry." The film made ₹153 crore worldwide and was declared a commercial success at the box office. It also became one of the highest grossing Bollywood films overseas, earning around US$7.25 million. It won two National Awards, the Best Choreography and the Best Audiography.
Following Don 2, Akhtar was signed up for the biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. He plays the role of Milkha Singh. For his role, he had to undergo a training phase at the gym and study the character of Milkha Singh by researching his body language. He also had to prepare his looks to depict a 17-year-old army recruit and endure an on-the-spot preparation at an army cantonment. In 2014, Akhtar acted for the romantic comedyShaadi Ke Side Effects alongside Vidya Balan, a film directed by Saket Chaudhary and produced by Pritish Nandy. It was a sequel to Pyaar Ke Side Effects (2006).
Next year, Akhtar featured in the supporting role in his sister Zoya Akhtar's Dil Dhadakne Do, an ensemble comedy-drama starring Anil Kapoor, Shefali Shah, Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma.
In 2016, Akhtar played the lead role of an Anti Terrorist Squad officer in Bejoy Nambiar's Wazir. It was his first action role as an actor, and for which he went through intense physical training and put on eight kilograms of weight.Raja Sen in his review called him "pretty good [..] early on in the film, but his performance starts to unravel once the film hits hysterical gear and he is required to do more than frown." Akhtar also sang the duet "Atrangi yaari" with Amitabh Bachchan for Wazir. The film was a box-office success. Akhtar's final release of the year was the rock musical drama Rock On 2, a sequel to the 2008 critically acclaimed Rock On!!. He reprised his role of Aditya Shroff, the lead singer of his band. The film was Akhtar's attempt to bring northeast India into popular culture.
In 2017, Akhtar essayed the role of a Dawood Ibrahim-alike mafia don Maqsood in Daddy, co-starring Arjun Rampal and received favorable reviews for his performance. His next release was the ensemble drama Lucknow Central, co-starring Diana Penty, Gippy Grewal and Deepak Dobriyal. The film was about a prison escape drama planned by a group of prisoners who also form a music band and was inspired by a real incident.Lucknow Central was released on 15 September 2017 and met with mixed reviews and financial failure.
Akhtar appeared as one of the nine judges in the beauty pageant Femina Miss India (2002). He was the judge on the first season of the dance-reality show Nach Baliye (2005). He hosted a TV show on NDTV Imagine, called Oye! It's Friday! in the same year. He has endorsed several brands as a part of his career, especially after the release of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. These include Hindustan Unilever's water purifier product titled Pureit, Chivas Regal, Britannia Nutri Choice Biscuits, IndusInd Bank, Dulux Paint, and Titan Industries, to name a few.
Men Against Rape and Discrimination
Main article: Men Against Rape and Discrimination
Men Against Rape and Discrimination or MARD is a social campaign launched by Akhtar. The idea came to the mind of Akhtar when in August 2012, Pallavi Purkayastha, a lawyer by profession, was sexually assaulted and then killed by her home watchman.