Naseeruddin Shah

Not to be confused with Naser al-Din Shah Qajar.
Naseeruddin Shah

Shah in 2011
Born Naseeruddin Shah
(1949-07-20) 20 July 1949
or (1950-08-16) 16 August 1950[lower-alpha 1]
Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, India
Nationality Indian
Occupation Actor, Environmentalist
Years active 1972–present
Religion Islam
Spouse(s) Parveen Murad, also known as Manara Sikri (deceased)
Ratna Pathak (m. 1982)
Children Heeba Shah
Imaad Shah
Vivaan Shah
Relatives Zameerud-din Shah (Brother)
Dina Pathak (Mother-in-law)
Supriya Pathak (Sister-in-law)
Mohommed Ali Shah (Nephew)
Awards Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri, National Film Award
Naseeruddin Shah Signature

Naseeruddin Shah (born 20 July 1949 or 16 August 1950[lower-alpha 1]) is an Indian film and stage actor and director, and a prominent figure in Indian parallel cinema. Shah has won numerous awards in his career, including three National Film Awards, three Filmfare Awards and an award at the Venice Film Festival. The Government of India has honoured him with the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan awards for his contributions to Indian cinema.[2] Shah has also appeared in the Pakistani Film Industry, Lollywood, through the films Khuda Kay Liye and Zinda Bhaag.

Early life

Shah was born into a Muslim family in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, India, as one of the three sons of Aley Mohammed Shah and his wife Farrukh Sultan. He is a descendant of a 19th-century Afghan warlord Jan-Fishan Khan, who participated in the First Anglo-Afghan War and helped the British in the subsequent Indian Rebellion of 1857.[3]

Shah did his schooling at St. Anselm's Ajmer and St Joseph's College, Nainital. He graduated in arts from Aligarh Muslim University in 1971 and attended National School of Drama in Delhi. He has been successful in mainstream Bollywood cinema as well as in Parallel Cinema. He has appeared in international films, notably playing Captain Nemo in the Hollywood adaptation The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

His elder brother, Lt. General Zameerud-din Shah (Retd.) PVSM, SM, VSM, is current Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, whose son Mohommed Ali Shah is an actor. Shah's nephew Salim Shah is also a TV and film actor.[4]


Shah has acted in movies such as Nishant, Aakrosh, Sparsh, Mirch Masala, Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Ata Hai, Trikal, Bhavni Bhavai, Junoon, Mandi, Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho!, Ardh Satya, Katha, and Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, to name a few.[5]

Shah became active in mainstream Bollywood cinema with the 1980 film Hum Paanch. In 1982, he acted in the film Dil Aakhir Dil Hai directed by Ismail Shroff, opposite Rakhee. One of his most important films, Masoom, was released in 1983 and was shot at St Joseph's College, Nainital. His next major success in mainstream films was the 1986 multi-starrer film Karma where he acted alongside veteran Dilip Kumar. Starring roles for 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 with Aditya Pancholi in films like Maalamaal (1988) and Game (1993).

He has 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 forayed into Malayalam cinema the same year, through T. V. Chandran's critically well acclaimed drama Ponthan Mada. The film portrayed the irrational bonding of a feudal serf (played by Mammootty) and a colonial landlord (played by Shah). 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. Shah won critical acclaim by playing the role of Mohit, the drunken coach to a deaf and mute boy in Iqbal, which was written by Vipul K Rawal with Shah specially in mind. Shah was praised for his roles in the 1999 Aamir Khan-starrer Sarfarosh, where he played Gulfam Hassan – a ghazal singer-cum-terrorist mastermind — and in Neeraj Pandey's critically acclaimed A Wednesday (2008).

Shah has also 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 Vishal Bhardwaj's Indian adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, titled Maqbool, in 2003, and Rajiv Rai's Asambhav opposite Arjun Rampal and Priyanka Chopra in 2004. He then went on to work in The Great New Wonderful (2005). In 2011, Shah was seen in The Dirty Picture. He acted in Anup Kurian's The Blueberry Hunt, playing a recluse growing marijuana in his forest retreat, and in Waiting, starring opposite Kalki Koechlin, both of which were released in 2016.

Shah made his Pakistani film debut in Khuda Ke Liye by Shoaib Mansoor, where he played a short cameo. His second Pakistani film Zinda Bhaag was selected as the country's official entry to the 86th Academy Awards for the Best Foreign Language Film award.

As a 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 Lavender Kumar, Ismat Chughtai and Saadat Hasan Manto.

Naseeruddin Shah

His directorial debut in movies, Yun Hota To Kya Hota, was released in 2006. It stars several established actors such as Konkona Sen Sharma, Paresh Rawal, Irfan Khan, then-newcomer Ayesha Takia, his son Imaad Shah and his old friend Ravi Baswani.

Other media and art forms

Naseeruddin Shah playing Pozzo in Motley's production of Waiting for Godot at The Doon School, 2009.

In 1977, Shah, Tom Alter and Benjamin Gilani formed a theatre group called Motley Productions. Their first play was Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, which was staged at the Prithvi Theatre on 29 July 1979.[6]

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.[7][8]

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.[9]

In mid 1990s, Shah also hosted some episodes of science magazine programme Turning Point.[10]

In 1999, he acted as a special agent in the TV series Tarkash on Zee TV. He played the role of a retired agent haunted by nightmares who is re-inducted as he apparently knows something about a dreaded terrorist somehow connected with his past.

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).[11] With this, he achieved his objective of portraying Mahatma Gandhi, a role he had auditioned for in Richard Attenborough's Gandhi.[12] In 2000, he again portrayed the Mahatma, this time on film, in Hey Ram.[13]

He played the villain with the dual identity of a ghazal singer and a Pakistani spy who supports terrorism in India in Sarfarosh (1999).[14]

He was the first of several celebrity actors, who played the role of narrator in the popular audiobook series for kids Karadi Tales.[15] He was the narrator in the film Paheli — the Indian entry to the 2006 Academy Awards.[16]

Personal life

Shah with wife Ratna Pathak at Gangs of Wasseypur screening in 2012

When he was between 19 and 20 years of age, Shah married 36-year-old Manara Sikri, also known as Parveen Murad. His wife, who was the sister of actress Surekha Sikri, was a divorced woman and had children from her previous marriage. Shah faced resistance from his parents and siblings to the idea of this marriage, but he went ahead nevertheless. Within one year of the wedding, the couple became the parents of a daughter, the stage actress Heeba Shah. By this time, the marriage was on the rocks, and the couple separated when Heeba was about one year old. However, they were not divorced for many years, because in his nikaahnama (Muslim marriage contract), Shah had firstly promised a massive amount of money to his wife as mehr (alimony) in case of a divorce, and secondly disclaimed the right to bigamy (otherwise a legal right enjoyed by Muslim men). His wife, whose first marriage had ended bitterly, and whose first divorce had not (in her opinion) yielded her enough money, had been determined to ensure that the same situation was not repeated in her second marriage. It took more than twelve years for Naseeruddin Shah to put together the colossal amount of money which he had fecklessly promised as a teenager, and it was not until 1982 that he was rid of his first wife and free to marry his next. Meanwhile, Manara and Heeba moved to Iran in the early 1970s, shortly after the couple separated, and Shah was not permitted by his wife to have any contact with their daughter, despite the fact that no divorce had been formalized. The situation was only remedied when Heeba, having become an adult, herself sought out her father and established contact with him. She later moved to India and, having never married, lives with her father, step-mother and half-brothers. Manara died in Iran in the 1990s, after having gone through yet another divorce.

Meanwhile, in the 1970s, Shah had met and fallen in love with Ratna Pathak, a stage and film actress, and the daughter of Dina Pathak, a well-respected character actress. Ratna's sister, the actress Supriya Pathak, is married to the actor Pankaj Kapoor, who is the father of Shahid Kapoor by his first marriage. During the 70s and 80s, Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak co-starred in several films like Jaane Tu... Ya Jaane Na, Mirch Masala and The Perfect Murder.[17][18] They were in a live-in relationship for many years, while Shah put together the mehr required to divorce Manara. Shah and Pathak were finally married in 1982.[19] By his second marriage, Shah has two sons, Imaad and Vivaan, both of who are aspiring actors. The couple lives in Mumbai with Heeba, Imaad and Vivaan.


Shah's memoir is titled And Then One Day, and was published by Hamish Hamilton.[1]


Award Film Year Status
Civilian Awards
Padma Shri India's fourth highest civilian award 1987 Awarded
Padma Bhushan India's third highest civilian award 2003 Awarded
National Film Award
National Film Award for Best Actor Sparsh 1979 Won
National Film Award for Best Actor Paar 1984 Won
National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor Iqbal 2006 Won
Filmfare Award
Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award Junoon 1980 Nominated
Filmfare Best Actor Award Aakrosh 1981 Won
Filmfare Best Actor Award Chakra 1982 Won
Filmfare Best Actor Award Bazaar 1983 Nominated
Filmfare Best Actor Award Masoom 1984 Won
Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award Katha 1984 Nominated
Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award Mandi 1984 Nominated
Filmfare Best Actor Award Sparsh 1985 Nominated
Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award Sir 1994 Nominated
Filmfare Best Villain Award Mohra 1995 Nominated
Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award Naajayaz 1996 Nominated
Filmfare Best Villain Award Chaahat 1998 Nominated
Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award China Gate 1999 Nominated
Filmfare Best Villain Award Sarfarosh 2000 Nominated
Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award Iqbal 2006 Nominated
Filmfare Best Villain Award Krrish 2007 Nominated
Filmfare Best Actor Award A Wednesday! 2008 Nominated
Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award The Dirty Picture 2012 Nominated
Venice Film Festival
The Volpi Cup (Award for Best Actor) Paar 1984 Won

Other awards



  1. 1 2 Shah was born either on 20 July 1949 or on 16 August 1950, though he suspects that the latter date was selected only for official records at the time of his school registration.[1]


  1. 1 2 Shah, Naseeruddin (2014). And then one day: A memoir. Hamish Hamilton. p. 1. ISBN 978-0670087648.
  2. "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved July 21, 2015.
  3. Obituary of Idries Shah, The Independent (London) of 26 November 1996.
  4. "Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap – Audience Reviews .. Must Watch .. :) | NG". Retrieved 22 October 2012.
  5. "Naseeruddin Shah". Retrieved 22 September 2009.
  6. "Still waiting, for Mr Godot". The Indian Express. 21 August 1997.
  7. Shahab Ansari (4 December 2013). "Naseeruddin Shah says he visited parts of Lahore in disguise". The News International. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  8. Prachi Pinglay (23 July 2006). "Magazine / Interview:`I did all kinds of films'". The Hindu. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  9. "Being Naseer". Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  10. "Turning Point makes a comeback with new host and producer". India Today. Retrieved 2016-07-09.
  11. A review of the play Mahatma Vs. Gandhi
  13. "IndiaToday". Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  14. "Not returning awards as they mean nothing to me: Naseeruddin Shah". The Indian Express.
  15. "Karadi tales". The Hindu. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  16. "pahele is a revelation". Rediff.
  17. Tags: (17 August 2009). "Did you know why Heeba Shah agreed to play the role of the young Daadisa?". Retrieved 30 July 2011.
  18. "Naseeruddin Shah's son falls off train". The Times of India. 24 November 2006.
  19. "Does Naseeruddin Shah's first marriage and divorce scare his second wife Ratna?". Stardust. 29 July 2013.
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