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Shah of hearts

Taha Shah Badussha is not the national man-crush for nothing. His career may have sky-rocketed after Heeramandi — his Instagram followers have risen to a whopping 2.6 million — but his humility is intact, and so is the twinkle in his eyes

Shah  of hearts

Anandita Gupta

With his affable charm, heart-warming humility and steely grit to win, Heeramandi break-out star Taha ‘Tajdar’ Badussha makes you believe that nice guys do win! Whether it’s handing out his visiting cards to Hollywood biggies at the Cannes Film Festival, unabashedly facing multiple rejections in Bollywood, personally replying to DMs on his Instagram account or his eyes welling up while his fans compliment him, Taha Shah Badussha is every bit of a man the internet is currently crushing on!

A still from Heeramandi

Impeccably styled, animated and basking in his newly found success, the self-made actor comes across as a breath of fresh air into the nepo-kids-dominant-film industry. With no revered film dynasty, PR machinery or influential big-wigs backing him, his charm is not calculated. There’s been no handholding, no dream debut launch for this industry outsider. No one put in any strategy for making him the star that he is becoming today. And yet, the Abu Dhabi-born actor waltzed straight into our hearts with his stellar performance in Netflix’s hit period drama Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar.

As big as it gets

Shah was definitely not trying hard to go viral when he essayed the tragic role of Nawab Tajdar Baloch in Heeramandi. All he wanted was a chance to break into Bollywood, to show he can act. However, destiny had other plans and Taha’s career trajectory took a 360-degree turn as soon as Heeramandi started streaming.

During the first few days after the release of the series, Taha’s followers on Instagram rose to a whopping 2.6 million, from a few thousands! His Nawabi-style inspired sartorial choices catapulted him into a style icon, especially among his female fans, who’ve been flooding social media with praises and admiration. With Heeramandi becoming Netflix’s second most-watched non-English show in the world for two weeks straight, and being renewed for a second season, Taha’s popularity continues to soar.

Touted as the ‘national man-crush’, Taha has been receiving non-stop adulation from fans and film fraternity alike. “I’m getting heartfelt messages, with fans expressing how much they loved my work. Mothers are calling and blessing me. People are approaching me, sharing how my death scene made them cry. These interactions mean much more to me than any social media metrics,” says the emotional actor.

Growing up in the UAE capital, Taha attended the American University of Sharjah where he studied entrepreneurship. Soon after graduating — and with encouragement from his mother — he joined the New York Film Academy in Abu Dhabi to pursue his passion for film and performing.

Tears of joy

Today, Taha is being hailed as a talent to watch out for in Bollywood. However, his 14-year-old journey to reach here has been far from easy. “For the first time, I’m shedding tears of joy. Previously, my tears stemmed from rejection, being replaced, or overlooked in the industry. When my films Luv Ka The End and Gippi bombed at the box-office, people wrote me off. Nobody was willing to give me acting jobs, or even auditions. Even where I got selected, somebody influential walked in and took that role,” reveals Taha, who was willing to become an Uber driver as nothing seemed to be working out!

The actor might have hit an all-time low, but the hustler in him decided to hang on. “I got to know about Heeramandi audition, and decided to go and put myself out there.” However, it took 15 months of chasing the casting director to get him an audition, “Shruti ma’m finally got tired of me and asked me to audition for a three-day blink-and-miss role. I got selected but director Sanjay Leela Bhansali sir offered me a slightly bigger role of Balraj, the revolutionary. However, at the last minute, sir changed his mind, and gave me the role of his lead — Tajdar.”

Mommy’s boy

A self-confessed mommy’s boy, Taha is conscious to bring up his mother and her incredible role in making it all work. “I wanted to join the join the New York Film Academy branch in Abu Dhabi, but was unsure due to financial constraints. But my mother dragged me by the ear, drove two hours and dropped me off at the dorm in just my pyjamas and a t-shirt, and said, ‘I’ll come back tomorrow with your food and clothes. You’re going here’,” he recalls, adding, “My mother has supported me unconditionally, all these years, emotionally and financially. I would sign her name in the skies, if I could,” smiles Taha, meticulously arranging his thoughts into words so no thread is left unaddressed.

A veritable fitness enthusiast, Taha spends most of his free time performing deadlifts at the gym or training in martial arts, “Sometimes my mom cries at the effort and amount of training I put in. I train five hours a day. I am in pain most of the day. I am either training physically or going for classes in acting, singing or dancing,” says Taha, who wants to be known as ‘the most hardworking dude around’.

Moving ahead, Taha’s bigger vision is to keep working on projects that he’s passionate about, “Now, I get to choose my projects, I get to decide how my career goes with my own choices and decisions, rather than just taking up anything that comes my way.”

#Bollywood #Instagram

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