Taha Shah Badussha On Ambitions To Be The First Indian James Bond

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EXCLUSIVE: Fresh off of Netflix’s noisy Indian series Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar, Taha Shah Badussha has set his sights on Hollywood — and he has a specific, seismic role in mind.

“Let’s put it out there, I want to be the first Indian James Bond. Why not?” he tells Deadline in an interview. With the iconic role still wide open as Bond‘s producers continue to sketch out the post-Daniel Craig era, there’s no harm in harboring the ambition.

Currently managed by Steven Adams’ Alta Global Media and hunting for representation in the UK and U.S., Shah has eyes for Tinseltown, where he hopes his reps can help land him the “meaty, acting-oriented roles” he wants, as opposed to the “comedian” parts that Indian-origin actors have often been given in the past.

“There’s mainly just Dev [Patel] and Kumail [Nanjiani] in the leading man space, and I’d like to bring in action and join them,” says Shah. 

After 15 years in Bollywood, Taha Shah Badussha is finally enjoying the fruits of his hustle. Following his role in Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar, he is looking to breathe the rarefied air of leading Bollywood men such as Ranbir Kapoor and Ranveer Singh.

In Heeramandi – BAFTA nominated director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s debut foray into television – Shah plays the tragic, yearning role of Tajdar Baloch, a performance that has received consistent praise amongst mixed reviews for the show overall. Upon release, Heeramandi was Netflix’s second most-watched non-English show in the world for two weeks straight, and has now been renewed for a second season. 

Filming has not yet begun on Heeramandi‘s sophomore run, confirms Shah, with the writing process still ongoing. However, he will say of Tajdar: “There’s something special in store for season 2.”

Shah also reveals director Bhansali is yet to commit to a new season, with his new feature Love & War, starring Kapoor and Alia Bhatt, now on the horizon for 2025. We’ve reached out to Bhansali’s reps for comment.

‘I’ve been here this whole time’

For Shah, his newfound acclaim has been a long time coming. “People are all like, ‘Oh, who’s this new guy?’ Nah, bro, [I’m] not a new guy. I’ve been here this whole time,” says the UAE-born actor. 

Contrary to many Asian parents who convince their children not to pursue creative careers, Shah attributes his acting journey to his mother, who raised him on her own and convinced him to join the New York Film Academy branch in Abu Dhabi. “She 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.

For Shah, who had previously dropped out of university, and worked in real estate, construction and labor recruitment, acting school was the first time he felt like he belonged somewhere. 

Shah’s debut film ‘Gippi’

UTV Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

He then moved to Mumbai at 20, and describes the following 15 years as “pure hustle.” Even though he booked his debut role in a film by major Bollywood production company Yash Raj Films, he kept having to think out of the box to land connections – he once chased producer and presenter Karan Johar’s car down to hand him his bio, which led to a successful audition for his first film, Gippi.

Shah also recalls sneaking into awards ceremonies to network with people in the industry, something he did until as recently as last year at the International Film Festival of India. “Everyone was distracted by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, so I just slipped in and got pushed to the first row near the Chief Minister of Goa,” he laughs. “I thought the game was up when someone came and asked me who I was, but I just coolly said, ‘Please contact my manager’ and walked off. I didn’t have a manager at the time either.”

He pulled off something similar at the 2019 Emmy Awards, where he worked his way from an obscure seat on the highest floor to the ground floor, ending up behind the cast of The Crown and Game of Thrones. After the ceremony was over, he convinced a security guard to let him go touch the stage. “I turned around, envisioned the entire acting world in front of me, and thought, ‘I have to be here one day’. That was it. Once I saw that, I left.” 

Taha Shah Badussha at the Grazia Millennial Awards in June 2023

Prodip Guha/Getty Images

Bollywood is one of the world’s largest film industries in terms of volume of films released every year, and is notorious for being incredibly difficult to break into as an outsider. Just as Hollywood has renewed conversations about ‘nepo babies’ in recent years, nepotism has remained a much talked-about issue in Bollywood, which is largely dominated by friends and family of its reigning dynasties. 

Heeramandi itself was in the limelight for starring Bhansali’s niece, Sharmin Segal, who played the romantic lead opposite Shah. Segal’s acting performance was critically panned across the board, and many questioned her presence as a lead in the show. Shah has gone on the record to defend his co-star multiple times, but admits that it gets frustrating at times to take the long road in the industry. 

“There have been times when I’ve thought, ‘I’ve taken fifteen acting courses, I try to be as respectful as I can, look okay, can dance, am proficient in martial arts, and there hasn’t been one bad review about my performance throughout my career… I’m doing everything short of sleeping around, then why? Why am I not getting the things I should be getting?”

Shah agrees that in hindsight, the process taught him perseverance and to live more in the moment rather than focusing on the results. “What is yours is yours, and you have to play the game the way the game is played,” he says. 

He will next take the screen in Marathi feature film Paro, a production by actor Trupti Bhoi about bride slavery. Paro unveiled its trailer at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and is pending release at film festivals elsewhere as well.

After that, who knows what’s next. Perhaps we’ve just interviewed the first Indian James Bond.

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