Ever heard of Geeta Tandon? Well, you should know who she is because her story is pretty incredible. Tandon was married off at the young age of 16 and was subjected to domestic abuse and marital rape. Having lost her mother at nine years of age, Tandon and her siblings were passed around from relative to relative even as their father sang jagrans and tried to make ends meet.

“I was a servant, a sex machine and a punching bag present to fulfill his needs,” she told HuffPost India. “I got pregnant at 16 and was briefly happy thinking it would stop the beatings. But it only got worse.”

According to the news website, Tandon attempted to flee from the house of her in-laws around three times and had even approached the police. “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,” she said, according to HuffPost India.

 

It was only four years later that Tandon managed to finally run away with her children and even then, she had no idea how she was going to make it out of the trenches. According to media reports, she started out as a bhangra dancer before landing the job of a stuntwoman. For her first assignment in Ladakh, she had to be set on fire and ended up with burns on her face.

“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 told the news website. “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 also had to face a fair amount of sexism in the industry. “Irrespective of the efforts we have to make, opinions like ‘Arrey yeh ladki hai, kitna hi kar legi?’, ‘Inke bas ka thodi na hota hai’ continue to exist,” she said in an interview to News18.

Today, despite the hardships she has faced, the 33-year-old is Bollywood’s top stuntwoman and her journey has just begun.

(Header credits: @TandonGeeta on Twitter)