CultureCinema Commemorating Fearless Nadia: Dauntless Actress And Stuntwoman

Commemorating Fearless Nadia: Dauntless Actress And Stuntwoman

Fearless Nadia is remembered for swinging from the chandelier to jumping off cliffs to fighting atop a speeding train and befriending lions.

Google Doodle paid a tribute Fearless Nadia, the intrepid woman who took the road less travelled. Without much ado let us see who she was, why she was fearless and why is Google celebrating her birth anniversary.

Born on 8 January 1908 in Perth, Western Australia as Mary Ann Evans, she was the daughter of Herbert Evans who belonged to the British Battalion and mother Margaret. She was only seven when she lost her father to the Germans during World War I.

She was in Bombay those days, as her family moved to the capital city of India in 1913. The death of her father led her family to relocate to Peshawar (Pakistan), where she learned horse riding, hunting, fishing and shooting. These were daunting activities, but she was born of an indomitable spirit.

She returned to Bombay in 1928 and learned ballet under the mentorship of Madam Astrova. She tried her hand at a sales job in an army and navy store and also wanted to learn shorthand and typing so that she could get promotions and pay raises.

It was when Madam Astrova’s troupe performed for the British armed forces at the base camps and in small towns, she realized that the film industry and stunts are her true calling. An American soothsayer told her that to be successful, she needs a name starting with the letter ‘N’ and thus she chose Nadia as she found the name striking.

In the late 1930’s, the world was bracing itself for the upcoming world war. To combat that, the film industry produced some fictional action movies for people, transporting them to a fantasy of heroes like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Then came a superwoman: Fearless Nadia as a veiled paladin, complete with whips, guns, swords and thrashing villains with her bare hands. Nadia dared to perform stunts that only men were allowed to perform.

Nadia learned Scottish dance, Greek songs, sang in school choirs but she was a maverick like me. I always preferred to play cricket and football and so did Nadia. She ignored stereotyped toys made for girls and preferred outdoor sports. She also tried to be a gymnast and trained herself, which later helped her perform her stunts.

Nadia was spotted by Eruch Kanga, a cinema owner based out of Lahore when she was dancing in Bollywood songs. He introduced her to J.B.H Wadia and Homi Wadia who had a production house called Wadia Movietone. The brothers were impressed by her dazzling looks and gallant attitude. She passed the test which was posed to her by the Wadia brothers who asked her to learn Hindi. She featured a cameo as a slave girl in the movie Desh Deepak and as a princess in Noor–e–Yaman.

Fearless Nadia was a veiled paladin, complete with whips, guns, swords and thrashed villains with her bare hands.

She left her audiences spellbound with her performances. Then the breakthrough happened. In 1935, the Wadia’s decided to launch her as the lead role in the film Hunterwali.

She emerged as a feminist icon challenging a male-dominated sector. To quote her, “Don’t be under the assumption that you can lord over today’s women. If the nation is to be free, women have to be freed first”. Homi Wadia fell in love with her and married her for her plucky attitude and nicknamed her Fearless Nadia, which became a very popular name for her.

At the age of sixty, Fearless Nadia made a final appearance as a secret agent in the movie Khiladi. She had faded from the spotlight but came back to public notice in the 1993 documentary film Fearless: The Hunterwali Story.

While the world tried to forget her, one cannot deny that talents cannot be hidden. The documentary was featured in several international film festivals including Australia where she was born, and the world came to know her as Fearless Nadia. Her works are studied by cinema critics all over the globe, including the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

Fearless Nadia passed away at the age of eighty-eight on 9 January 1996 but still shines like a beacon of inspiration for us women in this misogynistic society. To conclude this essay, I say to all woman do not be scared to follow the road less travelled, every though it might look threatening. Nadia too faced challenges during her journey. She took several risks. One such instance was falling from a great height and also got swept by the currents of Bhandardara Falls in Maharashtra.

She is remembered for her roles where she swung from the chandelier and jumped off cliffs to fighting atop a speeding train and befriending lions. She did it all with an ease even men found difficult to achieve. Her fiercely yelling at wild animals and bandits, as well as her cycling down roads on her way to new adventures, became her immortal signature.

Also Read: The Feminist Film: Defying The Male Gaze Of Celluloid

Featured Image Credit: The Hindustan Times

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