Nadira was born Florence Ezekiel in Baghdad on 5 December 1932. Her family moved to Mumbai (then Bombay) from Iraq like many other Baghdadi Jewish families who sought better business opportunities in India.
As an 11-year-old, she appeared in a small role in the Hindi film Mouj (1943) starring Pahari Sanyal and Nadia.
Her first film as a lead was in Mehboob Khan's Aan (1952) opposite Dilip Kumar. She played Princess Rajshree in India's first Technicolor film, also an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.
The song 'Mudd Mudd Ke Na Dekh' from Shree 420 (1955) which was picturised on Nadira became one of her most famous numbers. Her gown from the song was sewn up so tightly that Nadira couldn't sit during filming.
It was also during the making of Shree 420 that Nadira became co-star Raj Kapoor's rakhi sister.
The iconic cigarette-holder she carries during 'Mudd Mudd Ke Na Dekh' became an instant must-have fashion accessory at the time. She was most likely the first actress to smoke onscreen in Hindi cinema.
Nadira was paid well for her onscreen roles and once upon a time, she was the only big Indian star to possess a Rolls-Royce in the 1960s.
She won her first and only Filmfare Award in Julie (1975) for Best Supporting Actress. She played the titular character's mother Margaret who struggles to keep the family together.
Nadira's final film role was a special appearance in Mansoor Khan's Josh (2000) where she played Mrs Louise. She passed six years later, on 9 February 2006.