Nadira was born as Farhat Ezekiel (some suggest Florence Ezekiel) on December 5, 1932 into a Baghdadi Jewish family in Nagpada, Central Bombay, a predominantly Muslim and Jewish locality. Her parents divorced when she was just four years old and she and her brothers were raised by her grandmother. She was still in her teens when she was spotted by Sardar Akhtar, wife of the great filmmaker Mehboob Khan. After convincing her mother, Sardar Akhtar took Farhat under her wing, groomed her and renamed her Nadira.
She was married twice. She first married a Muslim Urdu poet and filmmaker called Naqshab. This marriage ended unhappily. She then married a man who turned out to be a fortune hunter. The marriage lasted only a week. For the latter part of her life, she lived alone in Mumbai, as many of her relatives had moved to Israel. For the last three years of her life, she is said to have kept entirely to her Bombay flat, where she lived with her housekeeper, Shobha.
Nadira died in the Bhatia Hospital at Tardeo, Bombay, India on February 9, 2006, aged 73, following a prolonged illness. She had been hospitalized on February 2nd and lay ailing in the hospital after suffering from a paralytic stroke combined with a heart attack. She is survived by two brothers, one of whom lives in the USA and another in Israel.
She rose to cinematic prominence with the 1952 film Aan (Savage Princess). In 1955, Aan (Savage Princess). She played roles in a number of films from the 1950s through to the 70s such as Dil Apna Prit Parayee, Hanste Zakhm, Amar Akbar Anthony and Pakeezah. She was often cast as a temptress or vamp and played opposite the chaste heroines then favored by the Bollywood film industry.
Nadira won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award for her role as Julie’s mother in Julie. During the 1980s and 1990s, she entered a new phase of her career, playing older women as a supporting actress. She also appeared in a few Merchant Ivory films such as The Guru and Cotton Mary. Her last role was in the film Josh (2000).
She was well paid for her efforts and was one of the first Indian actors to own a Rolls-Royce.
Josh (2000), The Guru and Cotton Mary (1999), Tamanna (1997), Godfather (1992), Mehbooba (1992), Jhoothi Shaan (1991), Hassan Da Chor (1991), Laila (1991), Maula Baksh (1988), Saagar (1985), Kim (1984), Raaste Pyar Ke (1982), Ashanti (1982), Dahshat (1981), Aas Paas (1981), Chaal Baaz (1980), Swayamvar (1980), Duniya Meri Jeb Mein (1979), Bin Phere Hum Tere (1979), Magroor (1979), Naukri (1978), Aap Ki Khatir (1977), Aashiq Hoon Baharon Ka (1977), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), Darling Darling (1977), Paapi (1977), Bhanwar (1976), Dharmatma (1975), Julie (1975), Kahte Hain Mujhko Raja (1975), Mere Sartaj (1975), Faslah (1974), Ishq Ishq Ishq (1974), Woh Main Nahin (1974), Ek Nari Do Roop (1973), Hanste Zakhm (1973), Pyaar Ka Rishta (1973), Ek Nazar (1972), Raja Jani (1972), Kahin Aar Kahin Paar (1971), Pakeezah (1971), Bombay Talkie (1971), Chetna (1970), Ishq Par Zor Nahin (1970), Safar (1970), Insaaf Ka Mandir (1969), Jahan Pyar Mile (1969), Talash (1969), Sapnon Ka Saudagar (1968), Meri Surat Teri Ankhen (1963), Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (1960), Kala Bazar (1960), Police (1958), Geliebte Corinna (1956), Pocket Maar (1956), Samundari Daku (1956), Sipahsalar (1956), Shree 420 (1956), Jalan (1955), Raftar (1955), Dak Babu (1954), Waris (1954), Aan (1952)