Neelima Azeem is an Indian actress known for her roles in TV shows like ‘Phir Wahi Talash’, ‘Amrapali’, ‘The Sword of Tipu Sultan’, and ‘Junoon’. She is the mother of the actors Shahid Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter. The daughter of ‘Blitz’ journalist and Urdu writer Anwar Azeem, Neelima grew up in New Delhi, the capital of India. When she was a child, she had a deep interest in various forms of Indian classical dance and was trained in Kathak by Pandit Birju Maharaj and Munna Shukla. Azeem made her screen debut in the 1984 Malayalam-language film ‘Kaliyil Alpam Karyam’. She debuted on the small screen four years later, in the TV miniseries ‘Himalaya Darshan’. She was quite a popular actress in the 1990s and has worked with the likes of Ajay Devgn, Dimple Kapadia, and Raj Babbar. She has been married three times over the course of her life and has raised her two sons on her own.
Neelima Azeem began her acting career in the Malayalam-language film ‘Kaliyil Alpam Karyam’ in 1984. Also starring Mohanlal, Jagathi Sreekumar, and Rahman, the film revolves around a man, who, despite being born in an affluent and urban family, chooses to live his life in rural India. In 1989, she appeared in the television miniseries ‘Himalaya Darshan’. The same year, she starred in her first Hindi-language film, ‘Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro’. It achieved critical acclaim and won the 37th National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi in 1989 and the 1990 National Film Award for Best Cinematography. In 1989, she also appeared in the TV series ‘Phir Wahi Talash’.
In 1990, she acted in the TV movie ‘Titli’. In the 1991 romantic drama ‘Sadak’, Azeem starred opposite Deepak Tijori. Her next film was Govind Nihalani and Dayal Nihalani’s ‘Karm Yodha’ (1992), in which she shared screen space with Dimple Kapadia and Raj Babbar.
From 1990 to 1991, she portrayed Mumtaz in the legendary Indian historical drama series ‘The Sword of Tipu Sultan’. During this period, India only had a handful of television channels and they were all run by the government. Azeem had a modest career on the big screen, mostly playing the supporting female characters in the films. However, she truly thrived as a television actress. She played various roles in shows like ‘Talaash’ (1992), ‘Bible Ki Kahaniya’ (1993), and ‘Zameen Aasmaan’ (1993).
In Doordarshan’s television series ‘Junoon’ (1994-98), Azeem had the opportunity to work with Tom Alter, Ratan Aulakh, and Beena Banerjee. She also appeared in another classic and critically acclaimed television show, ‘Shanti’ (1994). In 1998, she debuted on the cable television with Neena Gupta’s television series ‘Saans’. She played the estranged wife of Bharat Kapoor’s character, Ajit.
In the 2000s, Azeem appeared in Doordarshan’s ‘Amrapali’ (2002), Star Plus’ ‘Kashmeer’ (2003), Disney Channel India’s ‘Dhoom Machaao Dhoom’ (2007), Star Plus’ ‘Aek Chabhi Hai Padoss Mein’ (2007), and Star One’s ‘Dhoondh Legi Manzil Humein’ (2010).
In 2007, she portrayed the on-screen mother of her real-life son, Shahid Kapoor, in his debut film ‘Ishq Vishk’. The film went on to be a massive hit and served as the launchpad for the careers of both Kapoor and Amrita Rao, who played one of the two female protagonists in the film. In her next project, the 2007 romantic drama ‘Just Married’, she played the aunt of Esha Deol's character, Ritika Khanna. In 2016, she worked with Jaya Bachchan in Zaigham Imam’s film ‘Alif’. Her 2017 short film ‘Sthir’ was screened at the 2017 Berlin Short Film Festival. In 2018, she appeared in two films, ‘Blackmail’ and ‘The Illegal’.
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Family & Personal Life
Born on December 2, 1958, in New Delhi, India, Neelima Azeem is the daughter of Anwar Azeem, a renowned ‘Blitz’ journalist and Urdu writer, and his wife Khadija Azim. Since she was a child, Azeem has been passionate about performing arts. Her first love was dancing and she studied Kathak under Pandit Birju Maharaj and Munna Shukla. In 2014, she was one of the performers at the PanchTatva annual Kathak festival. This was organized by Pandit Birju Maharaj's Kalashram at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Campus in Mumbai, Maharashtra. This was her first performance in four decades.
Azeem married actor Pankaj Kapur in 1979. Their son, Shahid, was born on February 25, 1981. They eventually parted ways in 1984 and Azeem, with the help of her own parents, brought up her oldest son. From 1990 to 2001, she was married to film and television actor Rajesh Khattar, with whom she has one son, Ishaan. Both Shahid and Ishaan have followed in their parents’ footsteps into the world of acting. While Shahid had been very close to his mother and helped her in raising Ishaan, he had issues accepting her decision to marry classical vocalist Raza Ali Khan. The wedding took place in 2004 and Shahid ultimately came to terms with her mother’s decision. However, Azeem’s third marriage ended in a divorce as well. She and Khan parted ways in 2009.