Together with Salim Khan, he has authored hit Hindi films including Zanjeer and Sholay, scooping more than a dozen Indian movie awards in the process. As a lyricist, he has contributed to more than 70 Bollywood films since his career began in the early 60s.
His father, renowned poet Jan Nisar Akhtar, mother, Urdu writer Safia Akhtar, and uncle, poet Majaaz, were amongst the pioneers of the Progressive Writers Association.
Akhtar himself has been working tirelessly to champion songwriters and composers' rights in India, taking the fight all the way to parliament, where a new copyright bill is currently being examined. It is expected to pass into statute later this year.
M caught up with Akhtar during his recent visit to the UK, to find out how he puts together the songs that have made him a household name both in India and overseas.
If you're interested in new Indian music and want to find out more about Bollywood songwriters, read Arjun Ravi's Indian Summer cover story for the last issue of M magazine.