Nassar (also spelled Nasser, Naasar or Nazar) is often cited as part of India’s specialist character actors, along with the likes of Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri and Nana Patekar. He is proficient in Urdu, English, Hindi, Arabic, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. Nassar is married to Kameela and they have three sons. He is the founder of ‘Adavu’, Centre for Tamil Arts which trains people in various subjects including folk arts, story telling, research and docu-film making.
Nassar was born on 5 March 1958 to Mehaboob Basha and Mumtaz Beghum as Mehaboob Nasser, in an interior village called Meylerippakkam, in Chengalpattu district, Tamilnadu. He studied in St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School (Chengalpattu). He moved to Chennai after school, where he finished his pre-degree at Madras Christian College. At Madras Christian College, he was an active member of the Dramatic Society. Later for a brief time, he was in the Indian Air Force. He trained in two acting schools: the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce’s Film Institute and the Tamil Nadu Institute for Film and Television Technology. He passed with gold medals from both the institutes.
To stay in Chennai and look for opportunities in Tamil cinema, he took up odd jobs such as security guard, salesman, and waiter at Matsaya, Impala at Egmore and later at the Taj Coromandel at Nungambakkam, where he was a friend of Mr. Viswanathan. He started his acting career in Doordarshan. Technically, his first feature film was Panangaadu, which was based on the life of palm tree climbers, where Nasser was the protagonist. It was directed by Mr. Senapathy, shot in 16 mm and produced by Doordarshan. It participated in many international film festivals.
His first mainstream film was Kalyana Agadhigal directed by veteran director K. Balachandar. He continued to do a villain role in Velaikaaran with Rajinikanth and Vannakkanavugal with Karthik. In Kavidhai Paada Neram Illai, directed by Yuhi Sedhu, he was the protagonist. Then came Mani Rathnam’s Nayagan with Legend actor Kamal Hassan which made Nasser one of the busiest actors in Tamil cinema.
His debut as a director was Avatharam.