9 January: Tribute to Fearless Nadia on Death Anniversary
Mary Ann Evans (8 January 1908 – 9 January 1996), also known by her stage name Fearless Nadia, was an Australian-born actress and stuntwoman, who worked in Indian cinema. She is most remembered as the masked, cloaked adventurer in Hunterwali, released in 1935, which was one of the earliest female-lead Indian films.
Life and Career
Fearless Nadia was born on 8 January 1908, in Perth, Western Australia. She was the daughter of Scotsman Herbert Evans, a volunteer in the British Army, and Margret. They lived in Australia, before coming to India. Mary was one year old when Herbert’s regiment was seconded to Bombay. Mary came to Bombay in 1913 at the age of five with her father.
She began her career as a stage actress and later appeared in several silent films. She toured India as a theatre artist and began working for Zarko Circus in 1930. She was introduced to Hindi films by Jamshed “J.B.H.” Wadia who was the founder of Wadia Movietone, the behemoth of stunts and action in 1930s Bombay.
In 1933, she starred in the film “Hunterwali”, which made her a household name and earned her the nickname “Fearless Nadia”. Nadia went on to star in numerous films, including “Miss Frontier Mail” (1936), “The Diamond Queen” (1940), and “Jungle Princess” (1946). In addition to acting, Nadia was also a trained dancer and performed in stage shows throughout India.
Nadia married Homi Wadia in 1961 and thus became Nadia Wadia.
She retired from acting in the 1950s and died on 9 January 1996, a day after her 88th birthday, due to age-related diseases.
Award and Legacy
She has been honored posthumously for her contributions to the film industry. In 2015, the government of India issued a postage stamp featuring Nadia to commemorate her 100th birthday. In 2018, the Australian Film Institute organized a retrospective of Nadia’s films in Melbourne, recognizing her as one of the first international action stars. Nadia’s legacy continues to inspire actresses and filmmakers in India and around the world. In Vishal Bharadwaj‘s Hindi film Rangoon, the role played by Kangana Ranaut was inspired by Nadia.
On 8 January 2012, Google Doodle celebrated Fearless Nadia’s 110th Birthday.