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Shah-zaadi

Better known as Naseeruddin Shah's daughter, Heeba is just beginning to come into her own



Her father's daughter: Heeba Shah

PEEPING OUT from behind a wall, sprawled out on a low divan... Heeba Shah poses for photographers just before an interview while the rest of the cast of Manto — Ismat Haazir Hain look on. "I always wonder why the photographers are not clicking them as they're acting in the play as well. It is because I'm my dad's daughter," she says matter-of-factly.

Three films and many plays after she graduated from the National School of Drama (NSD), most of the recognition Heeba has got comes from her performances in Motley Productions, Naseeruddin and Ratna Pathak Shah's theatre company. Heeba doesn't live with Naseer and step-mom Ratna, but one soon realises her bonds with her father are stronger than just the characteristic deep-set eyes and curly hair.

"He tells me a lot of secrets that he wouldn't otherwise, I guess," she says about Naseer. "Often when I don't know what to do, he offers easy solutions. And those haven't just occurred to him. He has probably been thinking about them for the past 30 years. That's really special."

Although not averse to entering Bollywood, Heeba is clear about the kind of projects she would like to take up. "I would like to do mainstream films, but not to support theatre. Theatre can sustain you, but I'd like to act in films, because it is a beautiful medium."

It's fun

She continues: "I know people say yeah, you'll say this in your 20s and 30s, but... you don't do theatre to bring food to the table. You do it because you like it, because it's fun. Films are obviously a way to earn money, but they're also exciting. I don't try to do anything for survival... I mean how much money do you need?" She brushes aside suggestions that she sounds hugely idealistic with a brief, "I hope I remain idealistic all my life."

Watching her dad's theatre performances since she was in school, Heeba began helping backstage early on. "Some people like partying, some like clubbing, and some like doing theatre together." More theatre while at boarding school in Rishi Valley and by Class 12, she knew this is what she wanted to do all her life.

No ego

Her first play with Naseer was Julius Caesar. Their professional relationship is characterised by the absence of ego. "There's a good understanding between us. There are times when he's firm with me," she says. Despite being a formidable actor himself, Naseer allows Heeba to find her own feet. On hand now are three plays and a soon-to-be-released Hinglish film, Missed Call. Heeba's sentences are short and terse. "I want to act in as many plays as I can," she says simply. "Great plays, good plays. I like doing short stories." Heeba comes across as being intense and driven, keenly focussed on her projects."I like people but I'm not very sociable. I don't go looking for company."

It's hard to think of Heeba as someone who is flippant or sharing the same ready humour as Naseer. Besides her all-consuming passion for theatre, "I like trekking, exercising, singing... just thinking."

HEMANGINI GUPTA

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