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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

Happy Birthday Naseeruddin Shah: Why he remains a collosus among actors

As Naseeruddin Shah turns 69 this year and has a movie career spanning more than 40 years.

bollywood Updated: Jul 20, 2019 13:56 IST
Nivedita Mishra
Nivedita Mishra
Hindustan Times
Naseeruddin Shah turned 69 this year.
Naseeruddin Shah turned 69 this year.
         

Few actors in Indian cinema display the kind of finesse in acting that veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah has. In a career spanning more than 40 years, Naseer has acted in a variety of roles, making him a stand-out artist among generations of actors. He also remains one of the most hard-to-please actors in the industry. On his birthday today, a look at why audiences are in awe of his craft.

Mainstream Indian cinema is largely celebratory in nature -- extolling the virtues of our way of life, glorifying our past, and hopeful of the future. Rarely does it hold up a mirror to ourselves to show us our faultlines, warts and all. In the 1970s came a bunch of directors, most prominent being names like Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani, who were willing to do just that. For bringing their stories to life, they needed fine actors. Stepping into their world, was a quartet of actors who would go down as parallel cinema’s finest -- Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah.

Naseeruddin Shah in a still from Masoom.
Naseeruddin Shah in a still from Masoom.

In films like Aakrosh, Nishant, Bhumika, Manthan, Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai, Bazaar and Junoon, Naseer changed the definition of acting with life-like portrayals of day-to-day life, far removed from make-belief world of mainstream cinema.

With films like Masoom, Naseeruddin marked a departure from Benegal-Nihalani school of filmmaking and began making in -roads into mainstream Hindi films. The Shekhar Kapur directorial was an impressive upper middle class urban Indian family’s tale of love, betrayal and reconciliation. In later years, he would follow up his tactical shift into Hindi films with movies like Tridev and Mohra.

Naseer was not only about serious cinema. Satire and comedies came naturally to him. Films Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron and Katha fall in this category.

Naseeruddin Shah in a still from Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.
Naseeruddin Shah in a still from Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.

This was also the time when Naseer collaborated with filmmakers like Gulzar, who have successfully bridged the gap between art and commerce. Films like Ijazat and Doordarshan’s iconic TV serial Mirza Ghalib fall in this bracket.

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For the millennial, the name still rings a bell thanks to films Sarfarosh, A Wednesday, The Dirty Picture, Iqbal, Ishqiya to name a few.

What many may not be aware of is that Naseeruddin also runs a theatre group called Motley which has in the past, successfully adapted works of English and Urdu writers.

Naseeruddin Shah in a still from A Wednesday!
Naseeruddin Shah in a still from A Wednesday!

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