Shaad Ali started his career as an assistant director to Mani Ratnam, and assisted him on the film Dil Se (1998).
He made his directorial debut under Yash Raj Films, with Saathiya (2002), starring Rani Mukerji. The film was a remake of Mani Ratnam's Tamil film Alaipayuthey (2000). Saathiya's script was written by Ratnam. The film did well and established Shaad Ali in the industry.