Naseeruddin Shah, who was born on 20 July 1950, is an actor with immense energy and conviction. He has seen success in both mainstream Bollywood movies as well as in off-beat films.
Acting has been a passion with Shah since he was boyhood. He graduated from the National School of Drama in 1973 and, in the same year, enrolled in the Film and Television Institute of India. His first film was Shyam Benegal's 1975 film, Nishant.
As early as in 1979, he established himself as a significant actor when he won the Indian government's National Award for Best Actor for his spectacular portrayal of a blind man in the film Sparsh.
He was a part of the new wave cinema and worked with actors such as Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Om Puri. All these actors started getting opportunities in mainstream films as well. He also won Filmfare awards for Bhumika, Aakrosh, Junoon, & Sparsh
during this period.
Shah broke the mould of serious performances with the rip-roaring comedy Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron
(1983). He thus became more and more difficult to catagorise. He was even considered for the title role in Richard Attenborough's Gandhi,
but, to his acute disappointment, the role went to Ben Kingsley.
However, he did achieve his wish to play Gandhi, when in 1998, he played the role in the play Mahatma vs. Gandhi
, (which looked at the Mahatma's relation with Harilal Gandhi, his first son). The film, Hey Ram
(2000), directed by Kamal Haasan, also gave him the opportunity to portray the Mahatma.
The movie Karma
(1986), in which he was one of the heroes, established Shah as a popular mainstream hero. Films, with him as sole hero such as Jalwa
and Hero Hiralal
followed. He acted in several supporting roles as well. Mohra
(1994) his 100th film as an actor, saw him in the role of a villain.
It was now time for Shah to star in international projects such as Monsoon Wedding
(2001) and a movie adaptation of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
, co-starring Sean Connery (2003) where he played the role of Captain Nemo.
He worked Vishal Bhardwaj's adaption of Shakespeare's Macbeth, titled Maqbool
and more recently, in the same director's adaptation of Othello, titled Omkara
. He can also be seen in The Great New Wonderful.
Naseeruddin is a many faceted performer. In 1988, he acted in the television series based on the life and times of Mirza Ghalib, directed by Gulzar for Doordarshan.
He took the role of narrator in Karadi
tales, an audio recording of stories for kids. He was also the narrator in the film Paheli
- the Indian entry to the 2006 Oscars.
Naseeruddin Shah has been giving performances with his theatre troupe, Motley
in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Ahmadabad and Bangalore. He has directed plays and stories written by Ismat Chughtai, Saadat Hasan Manto, Premchand and Kamtanath. His production, ‘Macbeth' had the biggest cast he has ever directed, comprising 70-odd people. Shah feels that there is a great paucity of good Hindustani plays. Most have to be translated from regional languages like Gujrati or Bengali.
His directorial debut in movies, Yun Hota to Kya Hota
released in July 2006 and has received reasonably good reviews. Shah says that he has always had contempt for cinema for films that are made for money only. Yet, he admits that creative satisfaction is not the only important thing, financial success is a criterion too. And so he explains away some of the mediocre films that he has acted in.
Shah is the recipient of many honours and awards. Apart from the popular awards he has won, he has also notched up the Padma Bhushan
in 2003; IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) Award - Artistic Excellence for Performance in a Negative Role for Sarfarosh
in 2000; Padma Shri
, India's fourth highest civilian award in 1987 and National Award for Best Actor
in 1984 for Paar
His wife Ratna Pathak Shah
and daughter Heeba Manara Sha
have also graduated from the National School of Drama (1981 and 1999 batches respectively). Ratna is a successful TV and theatre performer. Naseeruddin's son, Imad Jkhan
, too, is stepping into cinema and on stage.