Dhondy did his schooling at The Bishop's School, Poona, and obtained a BSc degree from University of Poona in India. He won a scholarship to Pembroke College, Cambridge where he read Natural Sciences before switching to English. After graduating he studied for a Master's degree at Leicester University and was later a lecturer at Leicester College of Further Education and Archbishop Temples school in Lambeth in London.
In Leicester, Dhondy became involved with the Indian Workers' Association and later, in London, with the British Black Panther movement, joining the publication Race Today in 1970, along with his close friend Darcus Howe, and partner Mala Sen, and discovering his calling as a writer. In his role as a race activist and academic, he came to be associated with black and leftwing intellectuals and activists such as Stuart Hall and Trevor Phillips. Uncharacteristically, it is also from this period that his close friendship with the conservative author Sir V. S. Naipaul dates.
Dhondy's literary output is vast, including books for children, textbooks and biographies, as well as plays for theatre and scripts film and television. He is also a columnist, a biographer (of C. L. R. James; 2001), and media executive (Channel Four Commissioning Editor 1984–97). During his time with Channel Four, he wrote the comedy series Tandoori Nights (1985–87) for the channel, which concerned the rivalry of two curry house owners.
His children's stories include KBW (Keep Britain White), a study of a young white boy's response to anti-Bengali racism. In 2011 Dhondy published his translation of selections from the Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi, Rumi: a New Translation. He also wrote the screenplay for the Bollywood historical blockbuster Mangal Pandey, starring Aamir Khan and Toby Stephens. In 2012, he scripted a short film called The K File. This film dealt with a fictional take on the judgement of Ajmal Kasab and was directed by Oorvazi Irani. In 2013 his critically accalimed play Devdas was premiered in London. 2013 also saw the publication of his latest novel, Prophet Of Love (HarperCollins). 2014 saw the publication of his collection of Rumi translations which received a 4.5-star rating on Goodreads.
Dhondy led the start of a revolt to recruit more BME talent at the BBC, with an article in the New Statesman (covered in The Voice newspaper), which was later taken over by actor and comedian Lenny Henry.
In 2015 Dhondy interviewed Nobel Laureate Sir V. S. Naipaul in India and in London as part of the Jaipur Literature Festival and his publishers produced a collection of his greatest works in an anthology.
Honours and awards
- Children's Rights Workshop Other award: 1977, for East End at Your Feet, and 1979, for Come to Mecca, and Other Stories;
- Collins/Fontana Award for Come to Mecca, and Other Stories;
- Received the Samuel Beckett Award for the television play Romance, Romance.
- Works represented in Children's Fiction in Britain, 1900-1990 exhibition, British Council's Literature Department, 1990;
- Whitbread Award for first novel, 1990, for Bombay Duck.
- East End at Your Feet (short stories), Macmillan Publishers (London, England), 1976.
- Come to Mecca, and Other Stories, Collins (London, England), 1978.
- The Siege of Babylon (novel), Macmillan (London, England), 1978.
- Poona Company (short stories), Gollancz (London, England), 1980.
- Trip Trap (short stories), Faber and Faber (London, England), 1985.
- Vigilantes, (Hobo Press), 1988
- Bombay Duck (adult novel), Jonathan Cape (London, England), 1990.
- Black Swan, Gollanz (London, England), 1992, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Boston, MA), 1993.
- Janacky and the Giant, and Other Stories, HarperCollins (London, England), 1993.
- C. L. R. James: Cricket, The Caribbean and World Revolution, 205pp, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001.
- The Bikini Murders, based on the life of Charles Shobhraj (also known as The Bikini Killer), 2008. Currently in production as a feature film.
- Rumi: A New Translation, (trans. & ed.) Harper Perennial, 2011
- Prophet Of Love, HarperCollins 2013
- Mama Dragon, produced in London, England, 1980.
- Trojans (adaptation of a play by Euripides), produced in London, England, 1982.
- Kipling Sahib, produced in London, England, 1982.
- Vigilantes (produced in 1985), Hobo Press, 1988.
- King of the Ghetto (television series), British Broadcasting Company (BBC1), 1986.
- Split Wide Open (screenplay; based on the story by Dev Benegal), Adlabs/BMG Crescendo, 1999.
- Devdas, premiered in London, 2013.
- Bandit Queen, 1994 film based on late wife Mala Sen's book India's Bandit Queen: The True Story of Phoolan Devi (1993)
- Red Mercury (2005)
- Alison Donnell (2002). Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture. Taylor & Francis. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-415-16989-9. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
- Deccan Chronicle, 27 November 2010.
- City Journal, Autumn 2001.
- Review at kenanmalik.com, 30 July 2001
- "Rumi: A New Translation" at Goodreads.
- Farrukh Dhondy, "Is the BBC still 'hideously white'?", New Statesman, 18 March 2014.
- Subi Shah, "'Multiculturalism On TV Has Been Hijacked'", The Voice, 22 March 2014.