Why Naseeruddin Shah abandoned first wife and married Ratna Pathak?
27th September 2019
Naseeruddin Shah is an actor and an artist in true sense. He is known for portraying some of the most memorable and impactful characters – both on-screen and on-stage – in a career that has spanned over four decades. He fell in love with fellow stage actress Ratna Pathak; Naseeruddin Shah’s marriage to Ratna Pathak has been fun. But it wasn’t his first tryst with matrimony. In fact, he already had a daughter from his first marriage when he tied the knot with his fellow stage actress Ratna Pathak in the year 1982. Let’s take a closer look at Naseeruddin Shah’s marriage and the love life of this truly prolific actor.
Naseeruddin Shah was born on 20th July, 1949, at Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh. He was one among the three sons of his parents. His father’s name was Aley Mohammed Shah and mother’s name was Farrukh Sultan. Growing up, Shah had most of his education from Nainital and eventually graduated from Aligarh Muslim University which is where he fell in love with theatre. After graduating in the Arts stream, Shah decided to pursue a diploma in acting from the prestigious National School of Drama (NSD), in New Delhi, a decision which was opposed by his family members. Soon after the completion of his diploma course, Shah moved base to Mumbai, where he began his initial career working in low budget plays. His first big screen role came with Shyam Benegal’s critically acclaimed film Nishant in the year 1975. Since his debut, he has worked in more than 100 films and countless plays, and is known to be an exceptionally distinguished stage and film actor even today.
It was somewhere around the year 1969 when Shah was a 20 year old graduate student in Aligarh Muslim University that he happened to meet Parveen Murad, a 34-year old medical intern, who was studying from the same university. Parveen, a.k.a. Manara Sikri, was the sister of actress Surekha Sikri. She came into Shah’s life at a stage when he was facing resistance from his family on his decision to take up acting as a profession. Shah found a staunch supporter of his career choice in his friend and confidante Parveen, who’s sister was already a successful actress. But Parveen was a divorcee with children from a previous marriage, living with her family in Iran. These factors caused his family to be very much against a marriage with her. While on Parveen’s side, the 14-year age difference was pointed out as a main bone of contention, with Parveen’s family saying Shah might change his mind in time. But Shah was determined, having developed a strong infatuation towards her. Naseeruddin Shah’s marriage to Parveen happened in 1969, after she graduated, in a traditional nikah ceremony against the will of his family. Shah, in turn, pledged a heavy alimony to the bride’s family, if any divorce scenario arose.
In just a year, the couple had their first and only child together, a daughter, Heeba, on August 20, 1970. By that time, Shah had enrolled himself in New Delhi’s National School of Drama and it is said that he was not so delighted to hear about the birth of his daughter. Apparently, he found the news to be a distraction from his focus on acting and his career ahead. By late 1970, Shah is said to have cut off all ties with Parveen, who was a practicing doctor then, residing in Mumbai with her baby daughter. The fact that her husband abandoned her and her newborn within a year of her marriage deeply disturbed Parveen, and she left India with Heeba to settle down in London, where she continued to practice medicine. The couple had separated but not divorced. Since Shah was not in a financial condition to provide the large sum of money in one go, it took him 12 years to sum up the money for Parveen’s alimony, and secure a divorce.
During that phase, Shah did not see Heeba for the first 12 years of her life. Shah shirked his share of the duties. But Shah himself was a struggling actor then, busy at work, in his words, cringes to this day, when he thinks about the selfishness with which he acted after Heeba, was born.
But not for long. All of this, and his views on everything, were to change, when he met Ratna.
It was circa 1974 when Shah had already made a foray on the large screen, with supporting roles. He still maintained his association with stage plays. One afternoon, he was meeting up with the legendary stage actor and director Satyadev Dubey at a sugarcane stall for a discussion on an upcoming play, when he found Satyadev in the company of a charming pretty lady. Shah could not take his eyes off her, and after the formal greetings, Shah learnt that she was going to be a part of Satyadev’s play. Her name was Ratna Pathak, the daughter of the popular stage actress Dina Pathak, and the younger sister of Supriya Pathak (Shahid Kapur’s stepmother). Ratna was still in the early phase of her career, following the footsteps of her mother and elder sister. The point that she was an actress just like him drew Shah towards her. The fact that she was nine years younger to him did little to hamper his expression of love.
By mid-1970s, the couple were in a firm relationship, and due to the fact they could not marry till Shah’s impending divorce, the duo had a live-in relationship in an era when it was known fact at Bollywood, but still somewhat looked down upon. Naseeruddin Shah’s marriage to Ratna was on hold, and Ratna was kept waiting, but her support from this point on, was focal.
Shah’s career started gaining rapid momentum in 1980. But the real change came in 1981 when Shah signed on Shekhar Kapur’s Masoom, and ironically so. The movie, and the search that went into preparing for the role changed Shah’s entire viewpoint, as well as his personal and professional life. It was the beginning of everything.
In 1982 Shah accumulated enough funds to send to Parveen, finalizing the divorce. Ratna and Naseeruddin Shah’s marriage went through, and Shah changed his mind and attempted contact with Heeba. He was allowed communication and visitation rights, while Heeba stayed with her mom in Iran. Heeba also came over to India over vacation, and she was happily accepted by Ratna as her own. Shah and Ratna went on to become successful actors, holding critical acclaim.
Parveen remarried in Iran, and passed away a decade later, in the 1990. After the death of her mother, Heeba came to Mumbai, as Shah was her only remaining relative; She completed her higher education here. Naseeruddin Shah’s marriage to Ratna Pathak was blessed with two sons – Imaad Shah and Vivaan Shah. Just like their parents, the two brothers made a foray into the acting world, and are now making their way through Bollywood. Heeba is now an accomplished theatre actress.
Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak’s marriage has been a successful one, and despite how things turned out with his first marriage, he is on great terms with his daughter Heeba Shah. Ratna Pathak gets along well with the her step daughter, and Heeba has taken to being the older child of the family, and was said to have been a model older sibling to her younger brothers. Heeba shared in an interview that her father never pushed her to take acting as a career and also stated that he has always been liberal.
In his autobiography, (published in 2014), Shah stated that Ratna has always been that ‘one true love of his life’. The couple has been married for 30+ years but have known each other from much before that. Ratna Pathak and Naseeruddin Shah’s marriage, and their relationship is definitely of two compatibles but also is a precedent of the fact that it is always great to learn from the past and live in present. Here is wishing the Shah family all the best, and looking forward to the next breath-taking performance from the brilliant and fantastic Naseeruddin Shah.