Bollywood actor Taha Shah Badussha, born in Abu Dhabi and schooled in Sharjah, was a steel trader in the UAE before he coughed up the courage to pursue his acting ambitions in Mumbai.
A day in his life back then meant his shipping company ran like a well-oiled machine. But being woken up at 3am with an SOS phone call to deal with a faulty steel shipment with rust wasn’t his idea of an ideal job.
“Had I been passionate about it, I would have dropped everything in a heartbeat about some rust in that steel shipment? And today, if you call me at 3am for a film shoot, I am all ready for it … I had rather handle the rejections over here in Mumbai than do a job that I am not passionate about,” said Shah Badussha in an interview over Zoom.
So in 2008, Shah Badussha (earlier known as just Shah) decided to move to Mumbai from the UAE to take a stab at acting. He didn’t known anyone in the film industry, but running his own company in this region equipped him with a set of fierce life skills that comes to his aide even today.
After three years of hustling in a bustling metropolis such as Mumbai and going for countless auditions, Shah Badussha got his dream Bollywood debut in 2011 with the romantic comedy ‘Luv Ka The End’, produced by Yash Raj Films subsidiary Y-Films that concentrated on youth-centric content.
“At a very young age getting into steel and cement meant that I had to recruit staff, masons, carpenters and steel fixers. I got a different range of experience at such a young age. Being a steel businessman taught me about what I don’t want in life and how being satisfied in what you are doing with your life is so important,” said Shah Badussha.
The alumnus from Sharjah’s School of Choueifat and Sharjah American International School was always taught to dream big and never give up even if the going became tough. His days of running the steel company in the Hamriya Free Zone in Sharjah and battling daily issues that cropped up, bestowed him with an iron will and steely grit.
Path to success
“My days in the UAE taught me courage and helped me develop a perseverance strategy to tide through the good and the tough times. To be honest, actors get rejected and disappointed on a daily basis. We are in this perennial state of uncertainty,” said Shah Badussha.
“Did you know, I even dabbled in real estate business in Dubai and Ajman? Initially, we made profits but the 2008 financial crisis happened and everybody incurred losses. All those experiences made me a stronger person to face all that’s happening today.”
Ever since the pandemic swept the world more than a year ago, Bollywood and its players have been going through a tumultuous phase. Film shoots have been halted, cinema halls have downed the shutters, and work on the production and execution front has been delayed indefinitely.
But now is not the time to view things from a myopic lens, believes the actor. His brief entrepreneurial stint in the UAE has taught him to take each day at a time.
“In this situation, everybody is struggling in one way or the other. It’s desperate times … There are many out there who don’t have this luxury of sitting at home and not heading to work. They need that money to survive and they have often have to make this painful choice of heading out to work,” said Shah Badussha.
The 33-year-old actor recounts this episode where his heart went out to this ageing couple in Mumbai who were desperately trying to sell a few vegetables on the street.
“Their only hope was that somebody would stop and buy their vegetables. I am just so heartbroken looking at them. Now I always carry around food for them in my car … times are so tough.”
But being a survivor in Mumbai was a natural by-product of how the UAE toughened him up to face his life’s challenges. He describes it as a country where dreams come true, if you are ready to work hard and put your best foot forward.
“Even during the pandemic, I haven’t forgotten to invest a few hours on developing myself so that when the crisis ends, you are a better version of yourself,” said Shah Badussha. He has begun learning a new language Malayalam and is upping his martial arts expertise.
Shah, who was last seen in the glossy wedding music video ‘Aaj Saajaye’ produced by Karan Johar and also starring Alaya F, shot the video entirely with strict COVID-19 protocols in place. In less than a week of its release, the dance-heavy revelry video amassed more than 10 million views.
“We shot like none of us have ever shot before. There was multiple swab tests, PCR tests, sanitisers, masks and on set-distancing at play. Apart from the actors who could take off masks for obvious reasons, the others kept their masks on for several hours at a stretch,” said Shah Badussha.
After the shoot he was planning to return to the UAE for an extended holiday, but his plans had to be shelved when there was renewed lockdown in Mumbai. He was in Chennai when countries began placing air travel restrictions.
“I was hoping to see my nephew and my family after a long time and spent Eid there in Dubai, but the timing didn’t just work out. I had a meeting in South India and that took longer than expected.”
While his plans to return to the UAE may not have panned out, his plans to conquer Bollywood and Hollywood is right on track. His first international project ‘Draupadi Unleashed’ released in 2020, while he’s also working on an untitled Indie project in the West. He has also appeared in films including ‘Baar Baar Dekho’ and three episodes of ‘Made In Heaven’ series.
“I was able to reach this point because of the incredible support I got from my mother and my brother … When the going gets tough I think about my mother who has put so much faith into me. Sometimes she 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, dancing … My folks in the UAE are my backbone and I want this industry to know that I am the most hardworking dude around,” said Shah Badussha.
“I have an audition soon, but for the last three days I have put in at least 20 hours of preparation behind that brief scene. There’s so much groundwork to be invested. Even my sleep is measured. I know how I am going to spend every minute of my 24 hours in a day,” Taha Shah Badussha.
Did you know?
Taha Shah Badussha remembers his first brutal rejection:
“It was 10 years ago before Yash Raj discovered me. I was fresh out of the boat and I was young … One of the casting agents took one look at me and said snidely in Hindi: ‘Are you planning to become an actor? Have you seen your face lately?” During early days of my struggle, I used to travel in autos and did not want a car and the pollution on your face after your ride an auto rickshaw was bad,” said Taha Shah Badussha with a laugh.