Zoya Akhtar

Zoya Akhtar (born 14 October 1972) is an Indian film director and screenwriter. After completing a diploma in filmmaking from NYU, she assisted directors such as Mira Nair, Tony Gerber and Dev Benegal, before turning writer-director in her own right. Akhtar is the recipient of several accolades, including two Filmfare Awards.

Zoya Akhtar
Akhtar at Filmfare Glamour & Style Awards in 2016
Born (1972-10-14) 14 October 1972
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
OccupationDirector, screenwriter
Years active1999—present
Notable work
Luck By Chance, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara,

Dil Dhadakne Do, Lust Stories, Gully Boy,

Made in Heaven
  • Javed Akhtar (father)
  • Honey Irani (mother)
RelativesSee Akhtar family

She has directed movies such as Luck by Chance (2009), Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011) and Sheila Ki Jawani, a segment of Bombay Talkies (2013). She has co-written Talaash (2012) alongside Reema Kagti. She then went on to direct Dil Dhadakne Do (2015), a film based on a Punjabi family. Her latest hit as a director is Ranveer Singh starer Gully Boy (2019).

Personal life

Zoya Akhtar was born to poet, lyricist and screenwriter Javed Akhtar and screenwriter Honey Irani. Zoya's stepmother is Shabana Azmi. Her younger brother, Farhan Akhtar, is an actor and director. She attended Maneckji Cooper and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Xavier's College, both from Mumbai. Later, she joined the New York University Film School to learn film production.

Her great-grandfather, Fazl-e-Haq Khairabadi, a scholar of Islamic studies and theology, edited the first diwan of Mirza Ghalib on his request, and later became a figure during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 in his native Khairabad.[1]

She is great-granddaughter of renowned Urdu poet Muztar Khairabadi and granddaughter of poet Jan Nisar Akhtar.

Zoya grew up in an agnostic environment and along with her brother Farhan and father Javed Akhtar, she does not believe in any religion.[2][3]


Zoya started her career as co-director of a music video called Price of Bullets for a rock band called Pentagram. She has worked as a casting director for films including Dil Chahta Hai and Split Wide Open, and as an assistant director for her brother Farhan Akhtar's films Lakshya and Dil Chahta Hai. She then worked as an executive producer for her longtime partner Reema Kagti's Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd., also produced by Excel Entertainment.[4]

Zoya (right) with Reema Kagti

Zoya made her directorial debut with Luck By Chance (2009), starring her brother Farhan Akhtar and Konkana Sen Sharma. It tells the story of a struggling actor who breaks into the industry. The film was well received by critics, despite not doing well at the box office.[5][6]

In 2011, she directed Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, a multistarrer with Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol, Farhan Akhtar, Katrina Kaif and Kalki Koechlin.[7] It turned out to be a huge box office success and was well received by critics and won her the Filmfare Award for Best Director.

In 2013, Akhtar teamed up with Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and Karan Johar for Bombay Talkies. It was made as a celebration of 100 years of Indian cinema.[8][9]

She then went on to direct Dil Dhadakne Do (2015), a film based on a dysfunctional Punjabi family starring Anil Kapoor as an egotistical industrialist, Shefali Shah as his bitter socialite wife, and Priyanka Chopra and Ranveer Singh as their children. The film also featured Anushka Sharma and Farhan Akhtar as love interests for Singh and Chopra respectively.[10][11]

After Dil Dhadakne Do, Zoya Akhtar directed Gully Boy starring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt.[12], loosely based on the lives of Mumbai rapper Naezy.[13] Akhtar and Reema Kagti are also working on a story for Amazon Prime web series Made in Heaven about two wedding planners, to be produced by Excel Entertainment.[14][15]

She has been invited by the Academy Awards to be a member of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences[16].


Year Film Note(s)
2009 Luck By Chance Filmfare Award for Best Debut Director (shared with Ayan Mukerji)
2011 Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara Filmfare Award for Best Director[17]
IIFA Award for Best Director
Zee Cine Award for Best Director
Apsara Award for Best Director
2013 Bombay Talkies Segment: Sheila Ki Jawaani
2015 Dil Dhadakne Do
2018 Lust Stories
2019 Gully Boy[18] Film was selected for screening in Berlinale special section of 69th BIFF
2019 Made in Heaven 2 episodes

Screenplay writer

Year Film Director
2009 Luck By Chance Self
2011 Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara Self
2012 Talaash Reema Kagti
2019 Gully Boy Self
2019 Made in Heaven Self, Alankrita Shrivastava, Prashant Nair, Nitya Mehra

Story writer

Year Film Director
2009 Luck By Chance Self
2011 Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
2012 Talaash Reema Kagti
2015 Dil Dhadakne Do Self
2019 Made in Heaven Self, Alankrita Shrivastava, Prashant Nair, Nitya Mehra

Assistant director

Year Film Director Notes
1998 Bombay Boys Kaizad Gustad
2001 Dil Chahta Hai Farhan Akhtar
2004 Lakshya

Executive producer

Year Film Producer
2007 Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani
2009 Luck By Chance

Other appearances

She appeared on the Valentine's Day charity show of Kaun Banega Crorepati along with her brother Farhan Akhtar.[19] She also appeared in a very brief role as Rasa Devi's Rekha's Courtesan in Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love.[20]


  1. Jan Nisar Akhtar Biography The Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature (Volume Two) (D -J). by Amaresh Datta. Sahitya Akademi, 2006. ISBN 81-260-1194-7. p. 1796-97.
  2. "10 Self-Proclaimed Celebrity Atheists | Entertainment | iDiva.com | Page 4". iDiva.com. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
  3. "Celebs who are atheist". Times of India. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  4. "Zoya Akhtar". Excel Entertainment.
  5. "Zoya Akhtar". Outlook. 9 February 2009. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
  6. Adarsh, Taran. "Box office Top 5". Bollywood hungama. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
  7. "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara: Cast and Crew details". Bollywood Hungama. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
  8. "Bollywood directors join hands to pay homage to Indian cinema. She teamed up again with the same directorial squad, consisting of Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee, and Karan Johar to a direct Lust Stories, a Netflix Original Indian anthology film, consisting of four short film segments". The Times of India. 7 May 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  9. Dubey, Bharati (25 January 2012). "Film industry to mark Phalke centenary". The Times of India. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  10. "'Dil Dhadakne Do' - Movie Review" (Mid–day.com). Mid Day. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  11. "Zoya Akhtar's film is about a dysfunctional Punjabi family". Times of India. 23 February 2014. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
  12. "Ranveer Singh to turn composer for Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boyz". Deccan Chronicle. 23 June 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  13. "Ranveer Singh Met Underground Rappers- Ranveer Singh Gully Boy Movie". Desi Hip Hop. 20 December 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  14. NAIRITA MUKHERJEE (18 June 2017). "After Inside Edge, is Zoya Akhtar's show next on Amazon Prime?". Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  15. "Farhan Akhtar might have a cameo in Zoya Akhtar's next". 15 December 2016. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  16. "Zoya Akhtar invited to be a member of Oscar Academy". femina.in. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  17. Zoya Announced as Best Director for ZNMD 2012
  18. "Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt pair up for Zoya Akhtar's Gully Boy".
  19. "Discuss: A Shah Rukh Valentine". Rediff. 14 February 2007. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
  20. "Discuss: Zoya Akhtar's IMDB Profile".
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