As a student of Bollywood movies for a few years it has taken me awhile to identify the people who exemplify what I like best. Farhan Akhtar snuck up on me. The earliest movie I have seen of his was 'Don" which he produced. A bit later I saw "Karthik Calling Karthik" where he was the principle actor and I just could not associate him as a blockbuster producer. Later I watched "Rock On". Still later I watched what most would consider a masterpiece, "Dil Chahta Hai".
By this time I took a closer look. Nothing happens on its own. In fact Farhan is the son of Javed Akhtar a prominent screen writer and Honey Irani a writer and actress, both still active. At the age of 17 Farhan got involved in camera work and as assistant director.
At one stage he goofed off for about two years. He watched a lot of movies, but didn't do much of anything productive. One of his movie characters is at least partially modeled on this part of his life. A movie that really established him was was "Dil Chata Hai" in 2003. The movie had several established actors: Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Preity Zinta and Askaye Khanna. He used the musical talents of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy who are are another favourite of mine. It seemed to attract top technicians. He established a few habits such as shooting scenes in Goa. He used the coming of age theme. This is one of my favourite Bollywood movies and won awards for best film, best screenplay and music. More on "Dil Chata Hai": http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2011/11/farhan-akhtar-young-man-on-rise-in.html
In 2004 he directed "Lakshya" with Hithrik Roshan, Preity Zinta, Amitabh Bachchan and Bomran Irani. To this point I had not liked Hithrik in the few films I had seen and he seemed just a pretty face with some dance moves. However I saw another side to him in this film and have since appreciated his talent more. Incidentally Hritrik played the role that Farhan identified with in his two years of goofing off. Hrithrik's character matures and we can assume that Farhan did as well.
In 2006 he produced, wrote and directed "Don". It was actually a remake of a very popular movie of Amitabh Bachchan (I have to confess I haven't seen it) and there was some concern that it wouldn't measure up. The consensus is that it did measure up with Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Om Puri and Boman Irani.
In 2005 his acting debut was in a tv mini series with which I am unfamiliar.
In 2008 he took a big acting step in "Rock On". Unlike most Bollywood actors he was allowed to actually sing. Not only did his voice suit the role, but it provided greater voice consistency. He won an award for best newcomer.
As an actor he next appeared in 'Luck by Chance' and then 'Karthik Calling Karthik' with Deepika Padukone. It was a simple suspense story very well done. For 2011 he appeared as an actor(and as producer) in "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara" and wrote some of the dialogue. In my opinion this was one of the best movies of 2011. This seems a good point to mention his twin sister Zoya who wrote this last movie as well as directed it (she is nominated for an award as well). She has been involved as writer, producer and director, but so far not acting.
When a sequel was decided for "Don", Farhan was the natural choice to produce, direct and write the story. At this early date, "Don 2" seems destined to rise up to record earnings, especially in foreign markets, including the U.S and Canada.
A few projects are on the go and I for one will be looking for any that are tied to the name Farhan Akhtar. One is a sequel to "Rock On" and another is "Talaash", written by Zoya and starring Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukerji. Both Farhan and Zoya are carrying on a Bollywood tradition--one of excellence and entertainment.