Fearless Nadia: The Story of the Original Stunt Queen of Bollywood
The Google doodle today has the picture of a woman — strong and cheerful in her demeanour. She would have celebrated her 110th birthday had she been alive. She was the person who started the era of stuntwoman in Bollywood, who changed the face of Hindi Cinema by playing strong and powerful female characters on screen. When she entered the industry, she was hailed as fearless and given the title of original stuntwoman of Bollywood. She is actor Mary Ann Evans or popularly known as Fearless Nadia. But it wasn't until she got her break into Bollywood that she adopted the name.
Mary Ann Evans was born in 1908 in Perth, Australia. She was a kid when she moved to India with her family, where she was later destined to become a star. In the starting of her career, Nadia started off as a circus performer in Peshawar. After her stint in the circus, she joined a dance troupe in Bombay. After that, she made it to the Zarco Circus, which became her ticket to performing in the Hindi films.
After she joined the dance troupe, it was during that time she met an Armenian fortune teller, who suggested her to change her name to Nadia. It was after she started acting in films and started performing her own stunts that she took the name, Fearless Nadia, the action heroine. According to her, it was the perfect winning formula to her success.
Her first lead role in a Hindi film was in Hunterwali in 1935. It was the starting of a successful career, as Fearless Nadia blasted onto the screen, performing all of her own stunts. She was one of the first few stars to be part of Hindi cinema that paved the way for more women to join the industry.
Nadia was introduced to the world of Hindi cinema by J.B.H. Wadia, known for making stunt and fantasy films. It is said that when no one was ready to distribute 'Hunterwali,' starring the blonde, blue-eyed Nadia, the Wadias took up the task. The film went on to become a huge box office success and kick-started a great career for Nadia.
In the entire span of her career in the film industry, she performed in over 38 films. Swinging from chandeliers, leaping from speeding trains, and even taming lions, she was the first feminist actor of Hindi Cinema. She went to become an important part of the Hindi film industry in the 1930s and 1940s. Even Dorothee Wenner, the author of the book Fearless Nadia: The True Story of Bollywood's Original Stunt Queen, gave her the title of 'radical feminist actress.'
Throughout her stint in Bollywood, Nadia always portrayed strong and fierce women on screen, fighting injustice. She also starred in a James Bond spoof film called Khiladi. She also went on to become the first crossover actor for the Indian cinema, making the films popular in countries like Greece, Italy, and France. There is a documentary film made on her life and career by her great-grandnephew. It is called Fearless: The Hunterwali Story which came out in 1993. It takes you through the incredible life of the Stunt Queen of Bollywood. Even Kangana Ranaut's character in Rangoon was inspired by her character.
Fearless, enigmatic, and scintillating, Nadia was a woman who never feared, no matter what the role demanded of her. Even at the age of 53, she was able to lift a man and throw him in the air. And even after all these years, she is still a role model for women in the industry.