Nadira Zaheer was born on 20 January 1948 to communist leader Syed Sajjad Zaheer and Urdu Writer Razia Sajjad Zaheer, Nadira is third amongst four sisters, Najma Ali Baquer, Naseem Bhatia and Noor Sajjad Zaheer. Her parents were actively associated with the Progressive Writers' Association, and the IPTA, giving her an upbringing strongly rooted in culture and theatre.
She started her theatre group in Ekjute (Together) in 1981 in Delhi, which came out with its first production Yahudi Ki Ladki in 1981, which revived the Parsi theatre style, and is considered one of its finest. The group has also been performing the Bhavai-based musical, Jasma Odhan, written by Shanta Gandhi for several years now. Nadira moved to Mumbai in 1988, and reestablished her theatre group.
Over the last 30 years, Ekjute has given Indian theatre over sixty plays including Sandhya Chhaya, Look Back in Anger, Ballabpur Ki Roop Katha, Baat Laat Ki Halaat Ki, Bharam Ke Bhoot, Shabash Anarkali and Begum Jaan; apart from directing plays written by herself: Dayashankar Ki Diary (1997), Sakku Bai (1999), Suman Aur Sana and Ji Jaisi Aapki Marzi. It has worked with actors like Raj Babbar, Satish Kaushik and Kirron Kher.
Nadira Babbar was most recently seen as the mother to Aishwarya Rai in Gurinder Chadha's film Bride and Prejudice (2004), and M. F. Hussain's Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities (2004). She was also portrayed as the mother of Salman Khan in Sohail Khan's Jai Ho and as the mother of Raj Bansal (main villain) in Sunny Deol's recently released movie named Ghayal Once Again.
In 1990, Ekjute started the 'Ekjute Young People's Theatre Group', which has given productions like Aao Picnic Challen and Azdak Ka Insaaf. The groups celebrated 30 years of its foundation in 2011, with a week-long theatre festival, 30 Years Caravan 2011, at Prithvi Theatres, Mumbai which began on 14 April 2011. Her recent release is a Salman Khan-starrer Hindi movie Jai Ho (2014).
In 2016, She featured in Sunny Deol's Ghayal Once Again.