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To be a stuntman one needs to have guts and a lot of training. It’s not an easy task to Jump through the glass, driving cars at break-neck speeds, being set on fire and so on. In India, it’s a rare occupation for women, only smatterings of women have taken up this dangerous profession. But only one woman claims to be the best and have successfully attempted car chases (driving cars through objects like barricades or racing along narrow lanes), and that too with minimal training. She is none other than 33-year-old Geeta Tandon, A successful Bollywood stuntwoman since 2009. She is a person who has spent a greater part of their lives fighting tooth and nail just to stay alive.
Tandon has survived child marriage, motherhood even before she was 21 and brutal domestic violence that included being raped.
In one of her interview, Tandon recalled the time when her life was willing to do everything except for coordinating with her. She was 9 when she lost her mother.
At 15, all her relatives were concerned about her tomboyish habits and her love for Gilli Danda and bat-ball they thought an early marriage would correct her ‘wild’ ways. Within the next two days, Tandon was married off to a 24-year-old man from Jaipur.
Geeta was assured that her family must have selected a good person for her after having seen her elder sister settle down happily in an arranged marriage. She said, “Marriage for me meant the stability of a home with a loving family and food on the table – a lot for someone who never knew where she was going to end up next.”
Alas! It was a nightmare for her where she was stuck for 5 years. For Tandon’s husband and his family, marriage meant very different things. Her first night was terrifying, even after she denied for it, her in-laws forced her and soon it became a pattern, her days were spent cooking and cleaning followed by the nights of violence and forced sex.
She expressed it by saying “I was a servant, a sex machine and a punching bag present to fulfil his needs,” she says. “I got pregnant at 16 and was briefly happy thinking it would stop the beatings. But it only got worse.”
She remembers, after her second child was born, Tandon became even more miserable. “My children would cry for milk while my husband was beating me up. Afterwards, I couldn’t even feed them,”
She tried three times to flee from the house and even complained to the police. But they suddenly turned into marriage counsellors. She said “The cops told me that marital fights should be kept within the walls of the house. I stopped trying to register complaints as I had no support,”
Eventually, at the age of 20, she ran away from her husband and in law’s house with her children and never looked back since then. In her initial days, she used to cook food and clean dishes. Then one day she came across a job vacancy of stunt woman, Geeta immediately applied for the same without any formal training and got selected there. She got injured herself a lot of time in the early days, but she resolved to become successful in this field. And eventually, her dream came true in Bollywood!
Her first stunt assignment in Ladakh involved her being set on fire. ‘I ended up with burns on my face,” she recalls. As her burns healed, so did Tandon's soul. She began making the most of her work since it helped her to remember her old tomboyish self. She figured out how to drive amid a 20-day training program for a reality show, and that in the long run helped her stand apart from her friends.
“There are no women who do car chases in India. Almost always the men do it. I can ride any car or bike – I have driven a Harley, a Bullet and a dirt bike. Most women don’t like to perform stunts that involve long hours in the sun or getting dirty in the mud,” she says. “But I did it all. Recently, I did a car chase scene for Aishwarya Rai’s 'Jazbaa'. It’s dangerous because you’re driving very fast in a compact space in proximity to many people and expensive equipment, and you cannot afford any mistakes. When I was done, the entire crew was up on their feet cheering and clapping for me!”
Tandon additionally enlisted herself with a movie stunt association who prepared her for free and would make up for travel and any injuries caused during the shoots. It ended up being a good decision as she endured numerous genuine wounds including a tailbone and a spinal fracture which nobody trusted she would recoup from. “I was working for a small budget film starring Zeenat Aman. My role involved falling off a building after being shot. Unfortunately, I hit the railing hard and fractured my back,” she remembers. “When I was in the hospital, my landlord tried to evict me. He said I could not work anymore so he could not afford to indulge me and my children. I didn’t want any favours so I simply moved my kids into the hospital till I was fine.”
Today, she is the Bollywood's celebrated stuntwoman and tries to turn into the country's first female action director. Genuinely, her story is a genuine motivating one. Numerous indulge in illegal activities or end up their life by committing suicide because of life's desolation and battles yet Geeta Tandon inspires every one of us to battle back. She advocates everybody to battle for their lives and protect the equivalent in light of the fact that life is precious.
Tandon’s children both go to school and are very close to their mother. “My children want to stand on their own feet before they get married. They say it is a life lesson I have given them,” she says proudly. Tandon also plans to open a school that offers fighting and self-defence lessons to women. “Every woman should be able to stand up for herself instead of taking a beating.
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