Nadira Babbar is a renowned Indian theater and film actress and director, best known for establishing the theater group ‘Ekjute’. Nadira has been conferred with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for her contribution to theatre. Of all the characters she has enacted in her career so far, her portrayal of ‘Mrs. Bakshi’—the mother of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in the film, ‘Bride and Prejudice’—is her best claim to fame. Her performance in the movies, ‘Jai Ho’, ‘Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities’ and ‘Ghayal Once Again’ have also won rave reviews both from viewers and critics. At the same time, she has led from the front in staging more than sixty plays via her theater productions, ‘Ekjute’. Nadira is an alumnus of the National School of Drama, New Delhi. She has shared screen space as well as the theater stage with celebrated luminaries like Kiron Kher, Satish Kaushik, Farooque Sheikh, Raj Babbar, Salman Khan, and Anupam Kher. She met the actor and theater personality, Raj Babbar at NSD, with whom she developed a romantic relationship that culminated in their marriage.
Nadira Babbar developed an affinity for the performing arts quite early on in her life. She owes her love for theater to her parents, Razia Sajjad Zaheer and Syed Sajjad Zaheer who were actively involved with ‘Indian Peoples’ Theater Association’ (IPTA) and ‘Progressive Writers’ Association’. She joined the National School of Drama (NSD) in 1968 and earned a ‘Diploma in Direction’ in 1971, under the tutelage of Ibrahim Alkazi, her instructor.
Nadira was a gold medalist at NSG and won a scholarship to go to East Germany government. There she worked at ‘Berliner Ensemble’, a theater production company founded by Bertolt Brecht and his wife Helene Weigel. She won another scholarship which was awarded by the ‘National Theater of Weimer’ for pursuing with her theater education.
In the course of her training in East Germany, she worked alongside well-known theater directors like Peter Brooks, Henry Harvard, Wolfgang Heinz, Fritz Benevitz, and Ursula Kchimskye. Nadira came back to India in 1973 and took up a job as a drama teacher at Sardar Patel Vidyalaya. At the same time, she carried on working in theaters in New Delhi before relocating to Mumbai in 1988.
Nadira formed ‘Ekjute’ in 1981 in New Delhi and in the same year staged its debut production, ‘Yahudi Ki Ladki’ that gave a fillip to the Parsi theater genre. ‘Ekjute’ which has staged more than 15000 shows since its inception and introduced talented artistes to cinema, television, and theater, has raised the bar for Hindi theater. This theater group has dramatized works of many distinguished playwrights including but not limited to Eugene O’Neal, John Osborne, Albert Camus, Agha Kashmiri, Badal Sircar, and Habib Tanvir.
Nadira’s theater group, Ekjute, over the course of its existence, has worked in close cooperation with several leading lights in visual and performing arts like M.F. Hussein, Pandita Uma Dogra, and Guru Sri C.Gopalakrishnan. Some of the anniversary celebration logos’ of Ekjute were conceptualized by M.F. Hussain. She has appeared in many plays produced by her theater productions, including ‘Othello’, ‘Cross Purpose’, ‘Desire under the Elms’, ‘Tughlaq’, ‘Jasma Odhan’, ‘Sandhya Chhaya’, and ‘Begum Jaan’.
She directed the TV serial ‘Titliyaan, produced the teleserials, ‘Maharaja Ranjit Singh’, ‘Bulbul Baug’, and ‘Maeen Delhi Hoon’ for Doordarshan. She acted in telefilms ‘Us Basti Mein’, and ‘Niyaydheesh’, and featured in the serial, ‘Take it Easy-Sab Chalta Hai’. She also directed and acted in over 50 programs and plays for the radio.
She has starred in several feature films, including ‘Bride and Prejudice’, ‘Meenaxi: Tale of 3 Cities’, and last appeared in the movie, ‘Ghayal 2’ in 2016. She has also directed films like ‘Kaash Aap Hamare Hote’ and ‘Karmayoddha’; composed the script for ‘Saleem Langde Pe Mat Ro’; and has written dialogues for the movies, ‘Ab Aayega Maza’ and ‘Samundar’.
Nadira has been on the boards and panels of various leading organizations devoted to promoting performing arts and artistes including NFDC, HRD Ministry, NSD, and Sangeet Natak Akademi to name a few. She has also been honored with several awards like ‘Mahila Shiromani Award’, ‘Kala Samman’, Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, and ‘Ghalib Academy Award’.
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Nadira Zaheer Babbar was born on 20 January 1948, Mumbai, India, to Syed Sajjad Zaheer and Razia Sajjad Zaheer. Her father was a communist leader and her mother was an Urdu writer. She has three sisters; Najma Ali Baquer and Naseem Bhatia are elder to her while Noor Sajjad Zaheer is younger.
Nadira Babbar married Raj Babbar, an Indian film actor, in 1975. The couple has a son, Arya Babbar, who is a budding actor and a daughter, Juhi Babbar, who is a fashion designer.