Mary Ann Evans more commonly famous by her stage name ‘Fearless Nadia’, was probably the first woman in the Indian cinemas to change the role of women in the Bollywood movies. She was known in the film industry for her heroic deeds. She used to perform all her action scenes and stunts herself. She bravely performed nail biting stunts like jumping from dangling ladders of helicopters and horse backs to fighting on the top of trains and socializing with lions in her films. Her daring stunts gave her the tag ‘Fearless’. She was popular among the directors for playing the extraordinary roles of vamps, victims and virgins.
She was born in Perth in Australia in 1908. Her father was a British soldier and her mother was a Greek. In 1913, this legendary actress came to the city of Bombay after her father got stationed here. She was well trained in various types of activities like tap dancing and ballet, horse riding, gymnastic and tennis. She was a natural performer. In her early days, she worked in a circus and performed at many places across the country and developed her stage knowledge and skills.
Later, Jamshed Boman Homi Wadia, an Indian filmmaker realized her potential and appreciated her capabilities and physical strength. She played her first role as a slave girl in the film Desh Deepak in 1933, which gained her a lot of popularity and she then quickly got her own film Hunterwali (1935), Nadia’s first full film. In this film, she played the role of a princess named Madhuri, who fought for the injustice in her Kingdom and this film was a great success for her as well as the founders of Wadiya movietown. After this, she never looked back and gained a lot of fame and name in the industry.
She was even compared to the most daring Hollywood actresses for performing her own stunts. The combination was amazing. A white woman performing the roles of Indian women martyrs like Queen of Jhansi and Durgavati. The audience accepted her as well. The movies were successfully able to show more of her Indian side which made her popular among the Indian viewers. Her films included a lot of actions and stunts and less dialogues because of her unfamiliarity with the language, but that didn’t stop her from doing her job. She went on to perform more riskier stunts as she progressed in her career.
She had a great film career during 1930s and 40s. She did her last film named ‘Khiladi’ in 1968 before her retirement from the film industry. Homi Wadia who directed her in a lot of films fell in love with her. They got married in 1961 after Nadia’s conservative mother passed away. She died in 1996 in Bombay, at the age of 88. She is still remembered for her extraordinary work and the change that she brought in the industry in the roles of women which ultimately made her the – HERO.