Ali Fazal (born 15 October 1986) is an Indian actor. Born in Lucknow, he made his screen debut with a small role in the English language film The Other End of the Line (2008) before appearing in the American television miniseries Bollywood Hero (2009).
Fazal made his Bollywood debut with a special appearance in 3 Idiots (2009) and he next appeared in Always Kabhi Kabhi (2011). His first success came in Fukrey (2013) and was seen in a supporting roles in films; Baat Ban Gayi (2013), Bobby Jasoos (2014) and Sonali Cable (2014). He played the leading role in the horror Khamoshiyan (2015) followed by his first American film Furious 7 (2015). He also played an important role in Happy Bhag Jayegi, opposite Diana Penty in 2016.
Fazal has also starred in a British-American film Victoria & Abdul, in a lead role of Abdul opposite Judi Dench. It is a 130 year old story of Queen Victoria and her Indian servant Abdul Karim. The film premiered at Venice Film Festival, 2017. The costumes worn by lead actors in the film have been added as a part of official display at Osborne House, former residence of Queen of England.
Born in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, Fazal's family hails from Allahabad. He was brought up in a "middle-class family" from a village near the Ganges. His father worked in a firm in the Middle East. He grew up in his maternal grandparents' home—with his grandparents and his mother—since his parents were separated while he was a kid. The couple got divorced when Fazal was 18. He completed schooling from The Doon School in Dehra Dun. He used to play basketball during his school days, and hoped to represent India as a basketball player.
In 2004, he participated in school plays and engaged in debates, more for passing time than anything else, as he had fractured his hand and could not practice basketball. He was selected for the role of Trinculo in the role play of The Tempest by William Shakespeare, which resulted in him developing a passion for theatre. Fazal first took up engineering, convinced by his parents since he is the only child in the family. However, he persuaded his parents to change his stream to economics. He came to Mumbai and graduated in economics from St. Xavier's College.
2008–11: early work
Fazal committed to acting professionally in 2008, with a small role in the James Dodson—directed romantic comedy film The Other End of the Line (2008). The film was a critical and commercial failure. He next appeared in the American television miniseries Bollywood Hero (2009), where he portrayed the role of Monty Kapoor. During his second year of college, Saeed Akhtar Mirza saw him in a play and picked Fazal for the lead of erotic thriller Ek Tho Chance (2009), alongside Amrita Arora and Saurabh Shukla. The film focused on the realities and comedies inherent in life in Mumbai. The film premiered at 14th International Film Festival of Kerala but has been delayed for a worldwide release.
The same year, Fazal made Bollywood film debut with Rajkumar Hirani's National Film Award-winning 3 Idiots, a film loosely based on the novel Five Point Someone by Chetan Bhagat. He was doing a theatre play at Prithvi Theatre in Juhu, when a person from the film's production unit noticed him and referred him to Hirani. Co-starring alongside Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, R. Madhavan and Sharman Joshi, Fazal played the role of an engineering student, Joy Lobo. The film received critical acclaim and emerged as the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time up until then, grossing ₹3,920 million (US$61 million) in worldwide.
In 2011, Fazal was picked up by Shahrukh Khan's production-house, Red Chillies Entertainment for Roshan Abbas–directed romance film Always Kabhi Kabhi. Appeared opposite Giselli Monteiro, Fazal plays the role of Sameer Khanna, and had to lose 15 kilos for him to suit the role. The film received negative response from the critics and was proved to be a box office flop. While Komal Nahta of Koimoi felt he acts reasonably well, Gaurav Malani from The Times of India picked him as the only saving grace from the cast. Later in an interview, Fazal expressed doing the film was not a right decision.
Fazal's first release of 2013 came in the Mrighdeep Singh Lamba–directed coming of age comedy film Fukrey, in which he portrayed the role of Zafar, a struggling musician. The film along with his character received mixed response from critics. Nishi Tiwari from Rediff.com disapproved how he wears a "dazed expression" throughout the film, and Saibal Chatterjee from NDTV felt his role is "underwritten". However, he considered the film as a "major turning point" of his career since he received many offers for lead roles, post the release of the film. The same year, Fazal appeared in the Shuja Ali–directed romantic comedy film Baat Bann Gayi which was considered as a "parody" on Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors. He portrayed the dual roles of Kabir—a successful novelist from Singapore— and Rasiya Bihari—a local don. The film met with negative reactions from critics and flopped at the box office, though Fazal was praised for his acting. Faheem Ruhani from India Today considered him as an upcoming talent to "watch out for", while The Times of India affirmed he is "standing out" from the cast.
In 2014, Fazal appeared in a supporting role, opposite Vidya Balan in comedy-drama Bobby Jasoos, directed by Samar Shaikh. Initially, Fazal refused the role, since he felt he has "nothing much to do in it", though later agreed, because of the "unusual romance" between him and Balan. Fazal's role as Tasawur, a popular local TV anchor who helps a Hyderabadi woman who aspires to be a detective—played by Balan—was well received. Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama described Fazal as a "complete revelation", adding: "Although pitted against a powerhouse performer like Vidya, Ali makes his presence felt with a wonderful performance". The same year he appeared in Charudutt Acharya–directed film Sonali Cable opposite Rhea Chakraborty, where he portrayed the role of Raghu. Fazal did his first on-screen intimate scene for a song in the film along with Chakraborty. His acting received mixed response from critics, where many criticised him for "recent stereotyped roles". Mohar Basu from Koimoi commented, "Ali Fazal is not even close to what he is capable of. The actor has good potential and this film fails to unleash it", though Renuka Vyavahare reviewing for The Times of India felt he is "likeable in his character". Both the films released during the year received mixed to negative response from critics and was declared to be box office flops.
Fazal next took the lead role in Karan Darra's psychological horror thriller Khamoshiyan (2015). He portrayed the role of Kabir, an alcoholic novelist, whose failed career and relationship forcing him to move to Kashmir in search of an inspirational story. The film was a critical failure, though his performance was well received. Bollywood Hungama considered him as a gifted actor. "He has a wide range of emotions that effortlessly inhabit his face". The Hindu critic Arjun Kumar described him as a "natural performer with effective screen presence". Reportedly, Fazal was offered a role in the American political thriller television series Homeland, but he had to reject the offer since he already commenced shooting for Khamoshiyan and ultimately the role went to Nimrat Kaur.
Fazal made his Hollywood film debut with a special appearance in the action film Furious 7, the seventh installment in The Fast and the Furious film series. He plays the role of Safar, a friend of Ramsey—played by Nathalie Emmanuel—and an Emirati-resident mechanic of Abu Dhabi. In the film review, The Hindu wrote: "Our Ali Fazal turns up in a fleeting cameo and before we could breath in his presence he is ejected out of the scenery". Reportedly, Fazal admitted that he has only three scenes in the film and Subhash K. Jha from Bollywood Hungama considered those scenes "delightful". Fazal regarded the film as an "experience to remember for a lifetime". It was followed by an appearance in an online video on the occasion of Mother's Day, entitled Cheers, under the direction of Piyush Raghani. He was next seen in an Indo-American film, For Here Or To Go? which revolves around two Indian immigrants who find themselves difficult to build a successful life away from home. He played the role of Vivek Pandit who is an aspiring Indian tech entrepreneur who is poised to become a key hire at a healthcare startup. The film is premiered at many international film festivals. That same year, Fazal played the leading role in the Yash Raj Films youth studio Y-Films web-series Bang Baaja Baaraat opposite Angira Dhar.
As of October 2015, Fazal has finished shooting for an untitled Indo-Chinese romantic drama, playing a villager. He is filming for Anand L. Rai's upcoming Happy Bhag Jayegi, opposite Abhay Deol and Diana Penty, where Fazal will portray the role of a Punjab boy in the film. Fazal will feature alongside Kalki Koechlin, in Soni Razdan's Love Affair, a fictionalised version of the 1959 Nanavati murder case. In addition, he has committed to star opposite Shriya Saran in Prakash Raj's romantic comedy Tadka.
A sporty person, Fazal loves to play hockey and basketball and considers watching movies in his leisure time. He has water phobia and cannot swim. So he participated in a diving expedition in Thailand. He says, "Though I still cannot swim, I felt one with nature underwater". He convinced his parents to get a divorce, since he felt it would make everyone happy and is the right decision. "I believe it's not fair on people to continue in a relationship only because a child’s involved". A music lover, Fazal dreams to be a part of the music band and wants to play guitar in particular.
Fazal keeps his relationship link-ups private and conceal it even from his family. In August 2014, reports suggested that Fazal began a romantic relationship with a Delhi girl named, Anisha Gupta. However, he denied the news and regarded it as a false rumor.
In the media
Fazal is known in the media as a "talkative" person with a media "friendly self". His earlier releases like, 3 Idiots, Always Kabhi Kabhi, Fukrey and Baat Ban Gayi featured him in cameo appearances and small roles, where, Chaya Unnikrishnan, a journalist from Daily News and Analysis felt that most of his performances are "restrained" and "measured". Fazal, then decided that he will refrain from doing small roles and multi-starrer films. Subsequent releases, Bobby Jasoos and Sonali Cable had him appearing in supporting roles in women-centric films, which Firstpost reviewers found "similar" and Bollywood Hungama labelled his roles "stereotyped". Neha Maheshwri of The Times of India appraised his "professionalism" as he "experiments with his looks".
In 2014, Fazal made an entry on The Times of India's listing of the "Most Desirable Man". Furthermore, he is the celebrity endorser for RuPay—an Indian domestic card scheme.