Fearless Nadia - Scottish actress in early Bollywood movies!! -

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As we all know Bollywood movies in the last one and half decades have been widely watched by people world over. So are other Indian movies like Tamil Malayalam, Telugu, etc., which are quite popular. The main reason is the presence of large Indian diaspora across the globe. In the last  four  decades  several million Indians have moved overseas for employment, particularly to Gulf countries followed by Canada and the USA. Back in India, for Indians watching movies is an obsession, that is the reason why Hollywood movies are screened in many parts of India, though a large percentage of Indian population is glued to 

 Fearless Nadia in 11 O'Clock.(1948.en.wikipedia.org/wiki

various TV channels,  watching sensational cliffhanger serials in their native tongues. The movie is so popular in India that more than1,600 films in various Indian languages of India are produced annually.

If you go back on the olden days in 1900 and before, in India mythological dramas sometimes in musical form, were the major pastimes on holidays, etc in rural areas. In Tamil Nadu it is called ''Theru Koothu'' in  which males play female roles and such dramas start around 8 pm and go up to midnight. The entire village will sit on the dusty road  enjoy Koothu. The first full-length silent movie came to India  in the year 1913 - Raja Harichandra produced by Dadasaheb Phalke, a pioneer in Indian film industries and later talkie in 1931 - first Indian sound movie Alam Ara. In those days the natives liked mythological movies because of their strong religious belief. As females were not allowed to move out of home in those days, it was impossible to see Indian women acting in movies. The producers had difficulty in getting females to play the heroine and other roles. Over a period of time women were carefully allowed to act in movies on condition that hero and heroine should not act in close proximity, no indecent dialogues and no night shootings for ladies, etc. Song sequences are a must for movies, and in the olden days, the audience enjoyed them very much;  higher the number of songs, the better the audience response would be. For the present younger generations, it would be boring to watch a movie that has innumerable songs.

At a time when no Indian woman was available to play a lead role in movies, the producers recruited foreign nationals They mostly preferred brunettes to act in Indian films. One Nadia, the daughter of a Scotsman was introduced to Hindi films by Jamshed "J.B.H." Wadia who was the founder of Wadia Movietone. In 1930s  and she was an expert  stunt artist. However, producer Wadia took risk and gave her a "Cameo" as a slave girl in a hand-painted color sequence in 'DeshDepak' and later as  'Princess Parizaad' in Noor-e-Yaman. The movie was a hit and the Indian audience liked her very much. The Wadia brothers helped her become a regular star as she  became  popular. Her brief stint in the circus made her become courageous and the best stunt woman in the field.  Incidentally Marry Ann Evans changed her name to Nadia as an Armenian fortune teller advised her that any name beginning with 'N' would do the trick and she would gain popularity and fortune. 

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Who is this Nadia of European decent and what has she got to do with Hindi movies? Fearless Nadia was born as Mary Ann Evans on 8 January, 1908 in Perth, Western Australia. Her  father was a Scotsman Herbert Evans, a volunteer in British Army, Australia. Her mother was one Margaret. She moved over to Peshawar, NW Frontier province now in Pakistan along with her mother soon after her father's death during the First World War against Germans. At Peshawar, she learned horse riding, hunting, fishing, and shooting. In 1928, she arrived in Bombay with her mother and began to learn  ballet under one Madam  Astrova. Astrova’s troupe entertained  British soldiers at several military bases, Indian royal families and also the local crowds in dusty small towns and villages. She became an expert in the art of cartwheels and splits, This expertise helped her enhance her movie carrier which came in handy later during her film stunts.

She died on the 9th January, 1996 (aged 88) in Mumbai, India.

Tit -Bits:

01. Riyad Vinci Wadia, Nadia'grand daughter did a documentary on Nadia called  Fearless: The Hunterwali Story.

02. At the 1993 Berlin International Film Festival this documentary was well received.

 03. Dorothe Wenner, a German freelance writer, and film curator, wrote a book, Fearless Nadia - The true story of Bollywood's original stunt queen. Her work was translated in to English