Naseeruddin Shah: Man of Substance


Born on 20th July 1949, Naseeruddin Shah is a prominent figure in the Indian film and theatre fraternity. With numerous awards and accolades to his name, both of national and international recognition, his contribution as an actor is unparalleled.

Background and Early Life

Born into a Muslim family in the Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh, India, he is one of the three sons born to Aley Mohammed Shah and wife Farrukh Sultan. He attended St. Anselm’s Ajmer and subsequently St. Joseph’s College in Nainital. Later, he pursued his graduation from Aligarh University and then joined the reputed National School of Drama situated in Delhi.



He debuted with the film Nishant(1975) which was a received critical acclamation from the National film boards and also earned a place in many prestigious awards on the international level. Although having a background as a theatre actor, Shah established himself in mainstream Bollywood with the movie Hum Paanch from 1980 onwards. He has starred in numerous movies ever since like Dil Aakhir Dil Hai(1982) opposite Rakhee and Masoom(1983) which is considered a benchmark movie till this day. His other commercially acclaimed movies include Karma alongside Dilip Kumar, Ijaazat(1987) and Hero Hiralal(1988) among many others.


In 1988, he was cast opposite his present wife Ratna Pathak in an English production called The Perfect Murder. Other notable works include Maalamaal, Game, Vishwatma, Ghulami and Tridey. The 1994 blockbuster Mohra, marked the century project of Naseeruddin Shah as an actor. His movies Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, directed by Vinod Chopra is considered as one of the best works in Bollywood. He has also ventured into Malayalam cinema as well with the critically acclaimed film Ponthan Mada(1994) alongside Mammootty. His dream role portraying Mahatma Gandhi in Hey Ram was praised by every critic. Over the years, he established himself in antagonist or villain roles with outstanding performances in Sarfarosh(1999) and Mohra.

He is actively involved in Bollywood till date, delivering some of the most memorable performances of all time. In more recent times, his works include films like Monsoon Wedding (2001), Iqbal(2005), A Wednesday(2008), Maqbool, which is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, The Dirty Picture and The Blueberry Hunt.

He was also a part of two Pakistani films Khuda Ke Liye and Zinda Bhaag, An American film with Sean Connery called The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) and other movies in various native languages in India.

He was the narrator in the film Paheli(2006), India’s entry to the Oscars that year. He will be returning as an actor in The Hungry, a Shakespearean adaptation that is set to be screen in the Toronto Film Festival.

Theatre and Television

Shah has always been actively involved with theatre having formed his theatre group known as Motley Productions in 1977. He has been part of many projects on television as well.


Apart from directing numerous plays, his directorial debut was the film Yun Hota To Kya Hota in 2006.

Personal Life

He has been married twice, first to a Manara Sikri and then to actress Ratna Pathak. He has a daughter Heeba Shah from his first marriage who is also a stage actress. He and Ratna have two sons Vivaan Shah and Imaad Shah, both actors with Imaad being a musician as well.


His memoir And Then One Day was published in 2014.


Naseeruddin Shah has won 3 national awards and  3 Filmfare Awards. He received Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan in 1987 and 2003 respectively for his immense contribution to Indian cinema. He is also the recipient of The Volpi Cup in Venice Film Festival, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and International Indian Film Academy Award.