“Am grateful to ‘showman’ Bhansali-Sir for giving me a ‘second-life-in acting’ with my ‘Tajdar’ role in ‘Heeramandi’ (Netflix), “insists ‘national crush’ Taaha Shah Badussha by Chaitanya Padukone

The current ‘national crush’ of millions, especially fidaa females, amazing star-actor, and fashion-icon Taaha Shah Badussha ( who plays young ‘Nawab Tajdar’) is still figuring out how destiny has suddenly smiled on him.

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The current ‘national crush’ of millions, especially fidaa females, amazing star-actor, and fashion-icon Taaha Shah Badussha ( who plays young ‘Nawab Tajdar’) is still figuring out how destiny has suddenly smiled on him. Abruptly, Taaha’s otherwise normal life has been ushered into the dazzling ‘Hall of Fame’  ever since Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s opulent Heeramandi--The Diamond Bazaar dropped online on leading OTT platform Netflix from May 1st!

As a senior film journalist, last year, in February 2023, I had met and bonded with actor Taaha at the success party of his previous popular OTT (ZEE5) show  ‘Taj: Divided by Blood’ where he was also mingling with his co-stars including  ‘living legend’ Dharmendra and celeb Aditi Rao Hydari ( also acted in ‘Heeramandi’).  After watching him perform in ‘Taj’ projected on a large screen, at that party,  I clearly remember telling Taaha that he had the potential of becoming a top-star with his charming personality, voice modulation, and intensity in his expressive eyes (like Shah Rukh Khan). And Taaha reacted by sharing with me, that Shah Rukh-bhai was among his favorite top-stars whom he has always idolized.

From the ‘Taj’ OTT show last year to the latest powerful ‘Tajdar’ character and since past almost 15 years, trained-actor Taaha has been experiencing dramatic ups-and-downs in his diligent acting career-journey.

Speaking exclusively to me regarding  ‘Heeramandi’ on phone,  a few days ago, the modest Tasha says, “After facing failure, rejection and even being bluntly discouraged by people, for the past nearly 15 years finally there was a dazzling optimistic break-thru in my acting career. Honestly I am very grateful to mentor-showman Sanjay Leela Bhansali for giving me a second lease of life like a ‘punar-janam’  as an actor when my career-ship was almost sinking.  This second-life rejuvenation for me happened when by a positive twist of fate, creative genius producer-director Bhansali-Sir decided to cast me as Tajdar Baloch. Yes as Tajdar the romantic-rebel-revolutionary ‘hero’ of the magnificent opulent ‘Heeramandi’ “, shares Taha!

The  (trained–in–USA)  charismatic actor blessed with a sharp bass voice,  plays the male lead Nawab  “Tajdar ” in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s lavish costume musical Netflix period epic drama Heeramandi’. The ensemble cast  comprises Manisha Koirala, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditi Rao Hydari, Richa Chadha, Sanjeeda Shaikh, Sharmin Segal, veteran actress Farida Jalal, and of course Fardeen Khan, Shekhar Suman and his real-life son Adhyayan Suman  

File:Taaha Shah at the press meet of 'Gippi'.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Curiously enough, the same handsome talented Taaha started his acting career with this  YRF (Y-Films) 2011 romantic movie  ‘Luv Ka The End’  and later in  Dharma Productions comedy drama-movie Gippi  (2013).  As per cine-trade reports, both films failed at the box-office, when released. Apparently, Taha has acted in nearly a dozen projects, but somehow starry success and fame eluded him all this while until he finally got rewarding recognition with  ‘Heeramandi’.

The desperate yet passionate actor Taha remembers reminding casting director Shruti Mahajan for an audition. “After chasing her for 15 months, I got an audition for a minor three-day role and I even signed their contract,  maybe out of sheer desperation” he recalls. That it was a small role didn’t matter to him.

“Basically my dream since past 15 years was to work someday with Mr Bhansali-Sir as long as I got even one day to show my work to such a great visionary film-maker,” recalls Taaha.  Later came two twists-in-the- the story. Bhansali called him for a meeting a few weeks later and told him that he would play the more significant character of Balraj.  Two weeks later, Taaha was told that the illustrious filmmaker had changed his mind.

Says Taaha, “I was very disheartened, and told  Mr Bhansali ‘Sir, forgive me if I have done something wrong, but please don’t take this away from me.’ Reacting to what I said, Bhansari-Sir very courteously said, made me sit and then said, “ After having worked in the past in various big banner projects, nobody seems to know You.  However, I have checked your images and test-audition.  There is something impressive  in your eyes and I want you to play  the lead character ‘Tajdar.’ When I was speechless with pleasant shock,  he said, ‘Tujhe yeh role nahin chahiye?’”  Three days later, I got a call from Bhansali-Sir, saying, ‘Come to the shooting sets,’” recalls Taha with emotional thrill in his voice.

How was Taaha’s experience working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, known to be a tough task-master?  Responds the passionate actor, “ Fortunately for me, it was a supreme learning experience,. Yes, SLB is a ‘perfectionist’ and knows exactly what he wants. So he is quite sensitive as he strives for creative excellence in every scene, shot, and frame. SLB-Sir constantly motivated me, to help me bring out my best. This is evident in ‘Heeramandi’, in my sensitive romantic scenes with charming poetess Alamzeb (Sharmin Sehgal)  my dramatic rebel scenes with my on-screen-father  Ashfaq Baloch ( Ujjwal Chopra), and my sequences with other co-actors. Although SLB-Sir is otherwise quite serious and strict,  sometimes he would make me laugh with his humorous punch lines He wants things to turn out exactly how they are in his mind, and if people aren’t giving their all, he gets upset.  For Bhansali-Sir, filmmaking is like ‘oxygen’ When someone (SLB)  wants that kind of perfection from himself, trying to be better than the best, the cast and crew around him I guess also have to rise to that optimum max-levels. So as advised by iconic senior co-actor Naseeruddin Shah-Sir during my previous OTT show ‘Taj’, I would always go ‘fully-prepared’ on the ‘Heeramandi,’ sets, so I would not get nervous, ” explains Taha who now has large groups of fidaa female fans flocking around him for ‘selfies’, wherever he goes.  Among the compliments that these fans expressed were that they felt “that after  heritage monument Taj Mahal, I  was the eighth Wonder of the World”

Some ardent female fans ( both young and old) shared with Taha that they became emotional and moved to tears. That is after they watched the scenes in Heeramandi,  which depicts brutal bloody torture inflicted on him in the jail by the sadistic British-regime cops.  Was the torture scene very tough and demanding? Reacts Taha,  “Yes,  because of the several impactful different shots taken for several hours with me hanging upside down.  In fact, I  willingly consented to shoot hanging upside down, with my head facing the floor as the cops were literally hard-hitting me. (Instead of just lying down on a bench or on the floor).  With all the ( fake) blood bleeding from my nose and mouth, I felt as if I was almost drowning.  My natural reactions in that scene were recorded live (sync-sound) and not dubbed,” discloses ‘krantikaari--aashiq’ Taaha Shah whose character ‘Tajdar’  is shown getting ‘killed’ while in police custody.

Showman Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Heeramandi, despite opening to mixed reviews, made a spectacular debut on Netflix’s Top 10 global chart at number 2 with reportedly over 4.5 million views. The super-talented team met for a grand success party a few days ago,, and since then, whispers of  'Heeramandi-2' started spreading like wildfire.

Meanwhile a large section of OTT viewers-fans who want Taaha  ‘alive and back’,  are now speculating! Will actor Taha return in the future, as the killed character Tajdar’s son (??)  in the next likely season of ‘Heeramandi-2’, when 'now-pregnant' Alamzeb gives birth to their child? Only creative top-boss 'SLB' knows and only time will tell !!

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