Google on Monday celebrated the 110th birth anniversary of legendary Bollywood stuntwoman Mary Ann Evans or, as she’s better known, Fearless Nadia. Remembered as the Stunt Queen of India, the Australian rose to fame in Bollywood for her daring action sequences in Hunterwali in 1935, which was one of the earliest female-lead Indian movies. She risked her life several times while performing her own stunts, having starred in movies such as Diamond Queen, Desh Deepak, Khiladi (1968) and Noor-e-Yaman.
Born in Perth, Australia in 1908 Mary Ann Evans was the daughter of a British soldier and Greek mother. In 1913 Evans moved to Bombay where her father stationed with the army. Largely ignored by cinema historians as she performed mainly in the stunt genre, the story of this daring heroine is something few Indians are aware of. Fearless Nadia represented a profound shift in the way women were portrayed in Indian cinema, usually as vamps, virgins or victims, and became what no woman had ever been before -- the hero.
The Indian audience was forced to suspend their disbelief and believe that the white woman was in fact playing an Indian heroine and revelled in her stunts. The sight of a white woman thrashing Indian men in the movies at the height of the Indian freedom struggle could well have been a bad idea commercially and socio-politically as well. But the Wadia brothers undertook the Indianising of Nadia with meticulous screenplay. Robinhood-like Nadia got emphatically coded over time as the protector of the poor and the punisher of evildoers.
She went on to marry Indian filmmaker and producer Homi Wadia. If reports are to be believed, Kangana Ranaut’s character ‘Jaanbaaz Miss Julia’ in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Rangoon heavily borrows from the persona of Fearless Nadia.