Nadira

Bollywood femme fatale


Florence Ezekiel (Nadira), actress: born Baghdad 5 December 1932; died Bombay 9 February 2006.

For more than two decades, into the 1970s, the femme fatale Nadira enthralled a generation of Indian cinema audiences. She appeared in over 60 Bollywood films, mostly playing the fetching vamp. With her sultry, come-hither looks, arched eyebrows, exaggerated swagger and outlandish cigarette-holder, at a time when anything remotely risqué was considered unduly forward in women, the saucy Nadira titillated the imagination and fantasy of millions of fans, who hooted gleefully whenever she appeared on screen.

Nadira, who used one name, rarely disappointed. With effortless élan she led a succession of virtuous leading men astray and played the egregious, greedy and heartless brothel madam to perfection. And, though each time she got her comeuppance in formula Bollywood productions, it seldom came without a large dose of empathy from her audiences.

Several of Nadira's contemporaries in Bombay considered her ahead of her time; for, though typecast in her roles, she defied accepted social norms of the day with insouciance and irreverence. She was also the only Bollywood star to possess a Rolls-Royce in the 1960s. In her later films when she often played the widowed mother, Nadira was rarely the sobbing hapless woman in the traditional white sari, but a feisty personality replete with dignity and chutzpah.

Born Florence Ezekiel into a Jewish family in Baghdad in 1931, she migrated as an infant with her family from Iraq to the port city of Bombay, then a modern metropolis and bustling centre of commerce in the region. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries hundreds of Baghdadi Jewish families like the Ezekiels flocked not only to Bombay but also to Calcutta, the capital of colonial India, in search of business opportunities. Many ended up as tea and opium traders. However, since India's independence in 1947, almost all such Iraqi Jews have migrated to Israel and the West.

Adopting the screen name Nadira, the 12-year-old made her Hindi film début in 1943 with a small role in Mauj ("Fun"). But her career blossomed nine years later when she played the princess Rajshree opposite Bollywood's legendary hero Dalip Kumar in the box office hit Aan ("Pride").

The film's director, Mehboob Khan, chose Nadira for her glowing skin, sharp features and overall European look as he had wanted to render the film into English as well, but never did. One British critic, however, dismissed the historic film, peppered with endless sword-fight episodes, as one that "goes aan, aan and aan".

But it was in Shree 420 in 1955, in which Nadira plays the villainous Maya who lures the righteous hero on the road to profligacy, that she realised her forte as a vamp. Her chiselled features, flared nostrils and sharp voice that fluently spewed venom and vituperation in flawless Urdu, led to Nadira's being typecast as the amoral temptress, evil brothel-keeper or vicious schemer in films like Ek Nazar ("One Glance", 1972), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and Pakeezah (1971) besides a host of second-rate films that have faded into oblivion.

But in Julie (1975), Nadira played a poor Anglo-Indian housewife trying to keep her family together in the face of grave crises and insurmountable odds with sensitivity and poise, earning herself a Filmfare Best Supporting Actress award. Nadira's career declined after the 1970s and thereafter she featured only occasionally in films, including Tamanna ("Desire") in 1997 and Josh ("Feistiness") in 2000, which was her last.

A vivacious extrovert at the peak of her career, Nadira became reclusive as her fame and finances dipped and she openly admitted to being lonely as she had no family in India after her two brothers migrated abroad. But she was widely read and well informed about current affairs and, though she never married, Nadira's name was romantically linked to some of her leading men.

Kuldip Singh

News
people
Life and Style
healthMovember isn't about a moustache trend, it saves lives
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkFrom Mediterranean Tomato Tart to Raw Caramel Peanut Pie
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Extras
Boys to men: there’s nothing wrong with traditional ‘manly’ things, until masculinity is used to exclude people
indybest13 best grooming essentials
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities