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Nadia (1908-1996)

Aka ‘Fearless’ Nadia. Indian cinema’s most famous stunt actress was born Mary Evans in Perth, Australia. She worked in Zacko’s Russian circus before touring the Asian subcontinent with Madame Astrova’s ballet group, doing live shows in between silent films for British and Indian troops. She joined Wadia Movietone as chorus girl for Lal-e-Yaman. Hunterwali, the first of her highly successful films usually directed by her husband Homi Wadia, launched her as ‘India’s Pearl White’ in action films set in an unspecified period or in Tarzanland (Jungle Princess) or in a fantasy version of Hollywood gangster movies. She was always accompanied by her horse, Punjab Ka Beta, except when swinging from one building to another or through high-domed halls via chandeliers (Hunterwali), fighting the villain atop a rolling carriage (Diamond Queen) and, most popular of all, jumping from roof to roof on a moving train. She made several ‘train’ films, esp. Miss Frontier Mail, to show off this talent. The villain was always the devious Sayani and her (usually masked) hero was initially Boman Shroff who started the Wadia stunt tradition in silent films playing Fairbanks roles. After Punjab Mail, John Cawas replaced him as her leading man. Riyad Vinci Wadia, J.B.H. Wadia’s grandson and the current owner of Wadia Movietone, made a documentary about the star, Fearless: The Hunterwali Story (1993).

FILMOGRAPHY: 1933: Lal-e-Yaman; 1935: Desh Deepak; Noor-e-Yaman; Hunterwali; 1936: Miss Frontier Mail; Pahadi Kanya; 1937: Hurricane Hansa; 1938: Lutaru Lalna; 1939: Punjab Mail; 1940: Diamond Queen; 1941: Bambaiwali; 1942: Jungle Princess; Muqabala; 1943: Hunterwali Ki Beti; Mauj; 1946: Flying Prince; Lady Robin Hood; Sher-e-Baghdad; Toofan Queen; 1947: Himmatwali; Stunt Queen; Toofani Tirandaz; Chabuk Sawar; 1948: Eleven O’Clock; Jungle Goddess; Tigress; 1949: Delhi Express; Dhoomketu; Maya Mahal; Billi; 1950: Circuswale; 1952: Jungle Ka Jawahar; 1953: Shamsheerbaaz; 1954: Sher Dil; 1955: Carnival Queen; 1956: Baghdad Ka Jadu; Fighting Queen; Jungle Queen; 1957: Diler Daku; 1959: Circus Queen; 1968: Khiladi; 1993: Fearless: The Hunterwali Story (Doc).