Naseeruddin Shah

Born on 20 Jul 1950 (Age 71) New Delhi

Naseeruddin Shah Biography

Naseeruddin Shah is an Indian film and stage actor and director, and a prominent figure in Indian parallel cinema.

Early Life

He did his schooling at St. Anselm's Ajmer. He graduated in arts from Aligarh Muslim University in 1971 and attended National School of Drama in Delhi.

He has seen success in both mainstream Bollywood cinema as well as in Parallel Cinema. He also appeared in many international films most notably playing Captain Nemo in the Hollywood comic book adaptation, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

His elder brother Lt. General Zahiruddin Shah retired from the Indian Army in early 2008 as Deputy Chief of Army Staff (Planning and Systems) and formerly commanded Dimapur-based 3 Corps.


He became active in mainstream movies, popularly known as Bollywood with the 1980 film Hum Paanch. His next major success in mainstream films was the 1986 multi-starrer film Karma where he acted alongside veteran Dilip Kumar.
Sole hero films such as Ijaazat (1987), Jalwa (1988) and Hero Hiralal (1988) followed. In 1988 he played opposite his wife Ratna Pathak as Inspector Ghote, the fictional detective of H. R. F. Keating's novels in the Merchant-Ivory English language film The Perfect Murder.

He acted in several multi-starrer Bollywood films as well, such as Ghulami (1985), Tridev (1989) and Vishwatma (1992). In 1994, he acted as the villain in Mohra, his 100th film as an actor. He strongly believed that the distinction between art and commercial films had largely reduced, especially with the directors of the former also making commercial films.

In 2000, his dream of playing Mahatma Gandhi was realised when he played Gandhi in Kamal Hassan's critically acclaimed Hey Ram which focused on the assassination of Gandhi from the assailant's point of view.

Later, he starred in international projects such as Monsoon Wedding in 2001 and a Hollywood comic book adaptation The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in 2003 (co-starring Sean Connery) where he played the role of Captain Nemo. His portrayal of Nemo was very close to the design of the graphic novel, although his Nemo was far less manic.

He worked in an Indian adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, titled Maqbool in 2004. He then went on to work in The Great New Wonderful. He was then seen in A Wednesday.

He also made his Pakistani film debut in the critically acclaimed and controversial film Khuda Ke Liye by Shoaib Mansoor where he played a short, yet powerful cameo.

Other Media And Art Forms

In 1977, he along with Tom Alter and Benjamin Gilani formed a theatre group called Motley Productions. Their first play was Samuel Beckett's novel Waiting for Godot, which was staged at Prithvi Theatre on July 29, 1979.

In 1988, he acted in the eponymous television series based on the life and times of Mirza Ghalib, directed by Gulzar and telecast on DD National.

In 1989, he acted as the Maratha King Shivaji in another eponymous television series Bharat Ek Khoj based on Jawaharlal Nehru's book The Discovery of India directed by noted film director Shyam Benegal.

The role of Aurangzeb was performed by Om Puri. It was speculated that he was paid a sum of Rupees Four Lakhs per episode. The story of Shivaji was spread over two episodes.

In 1998, he played the role of Mahatma Gandhi in the play Mahatma Vs. Gandhi, (which looked at the Mahatma's relation with Harilal Gandhi, his first son). With this, he achieved his objective of portraying Mahatma Gandhi. Incidentally, in 2000, he again portrayed the Mahatma, this time in the film Hey Ram.

His performance in Sarfarosh (1999) was widely acclaimed. He played the villain with a dual identity of a Ghazal singer and Pakistani spy who supports terrorism in India.

He was widely appreciated in his role of Mohit a drunken coach in the critically acclaimed film Iqbal. The role was specially written keeping him in mind by Vipul K Rawal, the writer of Iqbal. The role got him rave reviews.

He was the first of several celebrity actors who played the role of a narrator in the popular audiobook series for kids Karadi Tales. He was also the narrator in the film Paheli - the Indian entry to the 2006 Academy Awards.

As Director

Naseeruddin Shah has been giving performances with his theatre troupe at places such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Lahore. He has directed plays written by Ismat Chughtai and Saadat Hasan Manto.

His directorial debut was made with the movie, Yun Hota To Kya Hota, which was released in 2006. The movie starred several established actors such as Paresh Rawal and Irfan Khan and newcomer Ayesha Takia.

Personal Life

He is married to Bollywood actress Ratna Pathak Shah.

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