Javed Akhtar (born 17 January 1945) is an Indian poet, lyricist, screenwriter and political activist. Known for his work in Hindi cinema, he has won five National Film Awards, and received the Padma Shri in 1999 and the Padma Bhushan in 2007, two of India’s highest civilian honours.
Akhtar came to recognition in the duo Salim–Javed, and earned his breakthrough as a screenwriter with 1973’s Zanjeer. He went on to write the films Deewar and Sholay, both released in 1975; they earned a cult following, and had a significant impact in popular culture.
Akhtar notably campaigned for the Communist Party of India (CPI) and their candidate in the 2019 Indian general election, and was a member of parliament in Rajya Sabha.
Career as scriptwriter
Initially, in the 1970s, there was generally no concept of having the same writer for the screenplay, story and dialogue, nor were the writers given any credits in the titles. Rajesh Khanna is credited with giving Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar their first chance to become screenplay writers by offering them work in Haathi Mere Saathi.
Javed Akhtar stated in an interview that one day, he went to Salimsaab and said that Mr. Devar had given him a huge signing amount with which he could complete the payment for his bungalow, Aashirwad. But the film was a remake and the script of the original was far from being satisfactory. “He told us that if we could set right the script, he would make sure we got both money and credit.”
Of the 24 films they wrote, 20 were hits. The scripts they wrote, but which were not successful at box office include Aakhri Dao (1975), Immaan Dharam (1977), Kaala Patthar (1979) and Shaan (1980). Though they split in 1982, due to ego issues, some of the scripts they wrote were made into hit films later, such as Zamana and Mr. India. Salim-Javed, many a time described as “the most successful scriptwriters of all-time”, are also noted to be the first scriptwriters in Indian cinema to achieve star status.
Akhtar was nominated to the Parliament upper house Rajya Sabha on 16 November 2009. Akhtar was married to Honey Irani, with whom he had two children, Farhan Akhtar, a film actor, producer, director and Zoya Akhtar, a film writer, director and producer. The father-and-son duo have worked together in films such as Dil Chahta Hai, Lakshya, Rock On!! and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara with Zoya.
Akhtar married Shabana Azmi, the daughter of Urdu poet, Kaifi Azmi and later divorced Irani. Akhtar’s uncle, Asrar-ul-Haq “Majaz” was also an Urdu poet. His uncle, Ansar Harvani, was a member of the Indian independence movement and an elected Member of Parliament. Akhtar’s aunt, Hamida Salim, was an Indian author, economist and educator as well.
- 1971 Andaz
- 1971 Haathi Mere Saathi
- 1972 Seeta Aur Geeta
- 1973 Yaadon Ki Baaraat
- 1973 Zanjeer
- 1975 Sholay
- 1977 Chacha Bhatija
Awards and nominations
Javed was awarded the civilian honour of Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1999, followed by the Padma Bhushan in 2007.
- 1996 National Film Awards Best Lyrics Won Saaz
- 1997 Best Lyrics Won Border
- 1998 Best Lyrics Won Godmother
- 2000 Best Lyrics Won Refugee
- 2001 Best Lyrics Won Lagaan
- 1989 Best Lyrics Nominated “Ek Do Teen” from Tezaab