Javed Akhtar was born in 1945 in Gwalior. His father Jan Nisar Akhtar was a Bollywood film songwriter and Urdu poet, and his mother Safia Akhtar was a singer, teacher and writer. His grandfather Muztar Khairabadi was a poet as was his grandfather’s elder brother, Bismil Khairabadi, while his great great grandfather, Fazl-e-Haq Khairabadi, was a scholar of Islamic studies and theology and played an important role in the First Independence Movement of India in 1857. Javed Akhtar’s original name was Jadoo, taken from a line in a poem written by his father: “Lamha, lamha kisi jadoo ka fasana hoga”. He was given the official name of Javed since it was the closest to the word jadoo. He spent most of his childhood and was schooled in Lucknow. He graduated from Saifiya College in Bhopal.
Akhtar was greatly inspired by Pakistani author Ibn-e-Safi‘s Urdu novels, which he grew up reading as a child. Akhtar was particularly influenced by the Jasoosi Dunya and Imran series of detective novels, such as The House of Fear (1955). He was influenced by their fast action, tight plots, economies of expression, fascinating characters with catchy memorable names, and speaking styles. Two of the earliest films he remembered watching both starred Dilip Kumar: Shaheed Latif‘s Arzoo (1950) and Mehboob Khan‘s Aan (1952). Other films that influenced him as a child include Bimal Roy‘s Do Bigha Zameen (1953), Satyen Bose‘s Jagriti (1954), Shree 420 (1955) directed by Raj Kapoor and written by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Munimji (1955) directed by Subodh Mukherjee and written by Nasir Hussain, and Mehboob Khan’s Mother India (1957).