Sunny from Dil Dhadakne Do (2015)
If you’ve been a fan of the actor, Feminist Sunny very likely tops the list of your Akhtar-related daydreams. Who doesn’t remember the verbal sparring between Sunny and Manav about women’s right to work after marriage? Funny, kind and carrying a strong moral centre, Sunny Gill offers a much-needed contrast to the Entitled Nice Guy syndrome that plagues Hindi film narratives. The crackling tension between childhood sweethearts Ayesha, played by Priyanka Chopra, and Sunny remains a highlight of the film, elevated by years of festering regret and unsaid words. Sunny might have left Ayesha for a foreign education, but it was only so that he could hold his head high before Ayesha’s millionaire father. Who could hold that against him?
Niren/Panda in The Sky Is Pink (2019)
The Sky Is Pink is as much a story of Moose (Priyanka Chopra) and Panda (Farhan Akhtar) as it is of their daughter, Aisha (Zaira Wasim) and her battle against illness. As a portrait of a couple spanning over 25 years, the film is a challenge for any actor and Akhtar uses this to his strength of playing both silliness and solemnity with equal flair. As a young Niren Chaudhary (later named Panda by his daughter), for whom crushing responsibilities are but a blip in the horizon, Akhtar oozes youthful charm. He personifies Niren’s cheesy romantic tendencies with a lived-in comfort – perhaps, taking a leaf out of Imraan Qureshi’s book. Later, as an older version of Niren, Akhtar has the calm attractiveness of a man in it for the long haul. What better than a man willing to double down and tackle life’s good ole curveballs?
Aziz in Toofaan (2021)
Perhaps the charm of Aziz is that of an underdog overcoming insurmountable odds. Or maybe it’s the mind-boggling physical transformation Akhtar went through for the film, from a paunchy dad-bod to a ripped physique. Akhtar plays Aziz Ali, a small-time street fighter from Dongri, whose fists pack massive power. When asked to choose between a life of bhaigiri and respect, he chooses the latter. Despite portraying a boxer with a violent upbringing, Akhtar manages to locate Aziz’s vulnerability as a man, much like he did in Bhaag Milka Bhaag (2013). Boxing, especially in boxing films, is never just a sport – it is a fight for dignity and a battle against inner demons. Akhtar embodied this struggle with earnestness.
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