No safety net

Bollywood stuntwoman’s greatest feat was escaping an abusive marriage

Geeta Tandon (Instagram)

Getta Tandon, one of Bollywood’s leading stuntwomen, says the scariest and most important stunt of her life was when she ran away from her violent husband with her two children — and no safety net.

Things started out rough for Tandon. Her mother died at nine, and her father struggled raising four daughters alone in a poor area of Mumbai. Tandon was tomboy, and with no money for school she said she spent her childhood sneaking out of the house to play cricket and other games with the neighborhood boys. Her father, concerned about her boyish tendencies and concerned that a local boy would take advantage of her, arranged a match for Tandon, then 15, with a man from a wealthier family. Within two days of making the arrangement, Tandon was married.

While initially excited at the prospect of wealth and a stable family, things quickly went south for Tandon. “I was young,” she said. “I wasn’t ready for him to touch me.” But he consummated the marriage, anyway. “He beat me every day,” said Tandon. “He beat me so hard I suffered from vertigo.” When she threatened to leave him, he told her that without him, she’d “just end up doing sex work and dancing in strip clubs.”

The suffering was such that Tandon attempted suicide by poison twice. When she took her concerns to the police, they refused to help, she said. When she fled to stay with her sister, her husband retaliated by burning her brother-in-law’s rickshaw. Finally, Tandon managed to escape with her children to a temple — thereafter she began a nomadic existence in Mumbai, desperately moving from district to district in search of work.

After a series of ventures, including one disastrous incident where she was hired as a masseuse only to discover that the establishment was, in fact, a brothel, Tandon found work with a group of Bhangra dancers on a Bollywood set. There she got her first break as a stuntwoman, although she had no experience doing anything of the kind. Six years later, Tandon is now one of the best stuntwomen in Bollywood, and one of only a few willing and able to do high-speed car chase scenes. And if people don’t like it, she says she no longer cares. “When I was married at 15, then society didn’t help or support me,” she said. “So why should I care what society thinks of me?”

Watch video of Geeta telling her story and performing stunts below:

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Read the full story at BBC News.

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