It was in 1929 when Nazir left Lahore to go to Calcutta along with the renowned film producer Abdul Rashid Kardar, and appeared in a character role in Kardar's Sarfarosh (1930) (aka 'The Daring One'). Kardar later made Heer Ranjha (1932) in which Nazir played the role of the 'Qazi'. Both these films are from the silent era. He also did a secondary role in Kardar's Farebi Daku (1931) also called Mysterious Bandit.
Nazir's artistic elegance and excellent command over acting won him applause all across the industry and resulted in him going to Bombay. During this period he was cast in important leading roles in films 'Rajputana Ka Sher', 'Chandaal Chaukri', 'Badmaash Ka Baita' and 'Pahari Sawar'. In 1934, he went back to Calcutta on the request of his old friend Kardar to act in important roles in his productions of Chandragupta (1934), Sultana (1934), Milap (1937), 'Mandar', 'Night Bird' and 'Aab-e-Hayat'. He also worked as the lead in Ezra Mir's films 'Badroohi' and 'Zareena'.
In Calcutta Nazir won laurels for his dynamic role of Chanakya in Chandragupta. Nazir had his head shaved off completely to authentically perform the role of the cunning prime minister. In 1938, both Nazir and Kardar moved to Bombay and under Kardar's banner, he performed his most-well-remembered and renowned character role in Baghban (1938), which, besides creating box office records, also established Nazir's name as one of the most well refined sensitive and mature actor of his era.
Nazir was one of the pioneers of the film industry in India. He is the only hero in history to have been cast opposite 35 actresses, most of whom were the reigning queens of their time. Nazir started producing and directing films under the banner of Hind Pictures and established a Studio in Bombay under the same name, although this did not stop him from accepting assignments from other producers.
Nazir was associated with almost 200 films during his career, which spanned over a period of 55 years. Only a few artistes have contributed more to the development of cinema in South Asia than Nazir. He was a talented actor, a vibrant director and an astute producer.
Shokh Dilruba, Sher ka Panja, Shama, Midnight Mail, Swami Pooja, Apni Nagaria, Laila Majnu, Wamaq Azra, Sandesha, Kaljug, Society, Chher Chhar, Aabroo, Salma, Gaon Ki Gori, Maa Baap ki Laaj, Yaadgar, Malika and Abida and several other hit films of that era are credited to his name. He also produced and directed many of them. Most of the films directed by him became Silver Jubilee hits.
Nazir started 'Hind Pictures' company in Bombay. Nazir's studio and the offices of Hind Pictures were burned down during the independence riots in 1946–47 in Bombay and in 1947, Nazir migrated to Pakistan. He left everything he had behind in Bombay and shifted to Lahore, Pakistan. He started from scratch and in the process became one of the pioneers of the Pakistan film industry.
He produced and directed Saachai, as his first film in the newly born Pakistan. It was followed by the first Silver Jubilee film of Pakistani Cinema, Pheray in 1949. Nazir completed Pheray in just one month, followed by Laarey (1950). His other movies include Shehri Babu (1953), Anokhi Daastan, Shamaa, Heer (1955 film), Khatoon, Noor-e-Islam (1957) and Azmat-e-Islam.
During the 1960s, he disassociated himself from Pakistani cinema, with the decline in this industry. He could not reconcile himself with the qualitatively declining trends in this industry.
Nazir had at least three wives over the years. He was first married to his cousin Sikandara Begum (who was the sister of K. Asif, the legendary director of 1960 film Mughal-e-Azam). He later had a very concise marriage with Sitara Devi, the legendary Kathak Dancer and lastly film actress Swaran Lata. He died in August 1983. Today, the son of late Nazir, Akhtar Nazir Khan aka Cooki is intensively engaged in reviving the Pakistani Cinema and works hard to provide the audience, both home and abroad, with the same perfectly mastered and creative films that once were a pride of Nazir in the South Asia Cinema.