Naseeruddin Shah (born 20 July 1949) is a 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.
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.
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.