That Farhan Akhtar should have the soul of a poet was predestined. Javed Akhtar’s son is the eighth generation of renowned Urdu poets; his grandparents Jan Nisar Akhtar and Safia Akhtar were the vanguard of the Progressive Writers Association of India.

But it is with Farhan – director, screenplay writer, producer, actor, singer and most recently, women’s rights activist – that the world of Hindi cinema has finally found a contemporary voice. From the very first film he directed, Dil Chahta Hai, Akhtar captured the zeitgeist of a generation that older and more seasoned filmmakers were struggling to decode. In Akhtar’s films, the silver screen finally reflects the dilemmas, obsessions and romance of a post-liberalisation India.

As his skills evolved, so did the course of his journey — Akhtar took to the screen with the ease of someone who had spent a lifetime in front of the camera. His varied roles in Rock On!!, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag are a masterclass in combining method with spontaneity. Most recently, reacting to the attempted rape and murder of a young lawyer in Mumbai, the two time National Award winner spearheaded a campaign titled M.A.R.D. — Men Against Rape and Discrimination. The social awareness campaign seeks to defend gender equality by creating a space for dialogue in schools, colleges and amongst Hindi cinema’s massive fan following in the country.