Fearless Nadia: Indian Action Star of the ’30s

A few words today about a cool figure from Indian cinema today, my first post out of over 6,000 to visit that topic. It concerns Indian film star Fearless Nadia (Mary Ann Evans, 1908-1996).

Nadia was the daughter of a Scottish soldier stationed in Perth Australia. When she was a toddler her father was reassigned to India, though he was killed in action during the First World War just a few years later. Nadia grew up in Mumbai, Peshawar (now Pakistan) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As a girl she learned the rugged arts of riding and shooting, but she also studied ballet, joining the troupe of Madam Astrova. According to legend, an Armenian fortune teller advised her to choose a stage name that began with “N”, thus inspiring her exotic pseudonym. Adept at acrobatic and gymnastic skills, she began working in music halls, theatres and with the Zarko Circus (starting in 1930).

In 1935 she became a star for the Mumbai-based Wadia Movietone Film Company, as the masked athletic heroine of Hunterwali a.k.a The Princess and the Hunter. For decades the blonde, blue eyed performer used her acrobatic skills in the service of Hindi language actions films, like Hurricane Hansa (1937), Diamond Queen (1940), Jungle Princess (1942), The Palace of Illusions (1949), Carnival Queen (1955) and the James Bond parody Khilari (1968).

In 1961 she married Homi Wadia, co-founder and boss of the Wadia studio becoming…that’s right: NADIA WADIA.

To learn more about variety entertainment, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,