Naseeruddin Shah finished his graduation from National School of Drama and later joined the Film & Television Institute of India. His wife is actress Ratna Pathak and their sons are Imaamudin and Vivaan.
He also has a daughter Hiba. Naseer made his Bollywood debut in the film Nishaant (1975). In 1977, he along with Tom Alter and Benjamin Gilani formed a theatre group called Motley Productions.
Naseeruddin Shah has directed and acted in a number of plays in both Hindi and English and has managed his theatre company, Motley, for the last twenty years. He has been giving performances with his theatre troupe at places such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Lahore.
In 1979, he established himself as a good actor and won the Indian government’s National Film Award for Best Actor for an effective portrayal of a blind man in the film Sparsh.
In 1980, he became active in mainstream movies, with the film Hum Panch.In 1985, he played the title role of Cyrano at the National Theatre in England.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 story of Shivaji was spread over two episodes.In 2001, he appeared at the Brooklyn Music Academy in Peter Brook's Hamlet.
Shah's numerous awards include Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival (1984 for Paar), the Padmashri, awarded by Indian Government (2003), The Sangeet Natak Akademi Purasker (awarded by the National Academy for Music and Drama) and two National awards and three Filmfare awards for Best Actor.
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, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, etc.
In the very early stages of his career he acted in a film Dil Aakhir Dil Hai directed by noted director Ismail Shroff, with Rakhi where she played the character of Naseer's elder girl friend kusumji whom he was forced to marry unwillingly because he is quite younger to her(in the film).
One of his most important films Masoom (1983) was shot at St Joseph's College, Nainital.
He became active in mainstream Bollywood cinema 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.
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 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 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 realized 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.
He won a lot of critical acclaim by acting as Mohit, the drunken coach to a deaf and mute boy in Iqbal which was written by Vipul K Rawal keeping specially him in mind. He also worked in the critically acclaimed A Wednesday (2008).
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 and Rajiv Rai's Asambhav in 2004.
He then went on to work in The Great New Wonderful. He was most recently seen in Ishqiya. Shah's upcoming films include The Hunt where he plays a recluse growing marijuana in his forest retreat.
He made his Pakistani film debut in Khuda Ke Liye by Shoaib Mansoor where he played a short cameo.