Who is Fearless Nadia? This was the question asked by many till Kangana Ranaut immortalized the role of Mary Ann Evans, the popular stunt queen of the 1930s and 1940s in Bollywood. She acted in almost 35 films and in almost all her films she did her own stunts. But it was the subject of her movies which made her different; she was seen as a fighter of injustice, a saviour of the oppressed.
It was J.B.H. Wadia who introduced Nadia to the world of cinema. Initially, the blue-eyed blonde Nadia had to struggle a bit to make her position in Hindi cinema. ‘Hunterwali’ which later became one of the biggest hits had many initial hiccups with no distributors ready to buy the rights of the movie. It was Wadia who took the risk and the rest is history as they say.
Nadia has often been referred as the ‘Original Stunt Queen’. She did difficult stunts at a time when it was unthinkable for a woman to pull off such hardcore action sequences. Nadia could do everything that a man could do. It is said that Nadia worked as a circus performer before she entered Hindi movies. Film critics have emphasized that she has been rather radical in her choice of roles. There is probably not a single movie where Nadia has played the demure damsel. She is the one who has always been rescuing the distressed.
In one of her movies ‘Khilari’ which was released in 1961, a 53-year old Nadia effortlessly lifted one man and threw him in the air. Later, when she was asked how she managed to pull off such a stunt, she said that even Wadia was skeptical about this move. But once, she did it, the act almost became a regular in her other movies.
One of Nadia’s signature moves was to seat on her horse, raise her hand defiantly in the air and give a Tarzanesque clarion call ‘Heyyyyy’. She was a hero at an era; a woman who stood among a bunch of men and epitomized idealism, strength and courage.