A woman of invincible strength and unwavering spirit- Reshma Pathan is India’s first successful stunt woman. She made us believe that a woman is not just capable of performing a job but is far more competent to excel in it. Reshma’s accomplishments in a true sense demonstrate absolute perseverance and she proves that even if the world tells you otherwise, you have the strength to survive, outgrow and excel. And today, after performing thousands of life-threatening and nerve-wracking stunts in almost 400 films, she believes that the “Show must go on!”
Reshma became the sole bread earner for the family at an early age when her mother was taken into custody for smuggling rice. Her father’s sickness left no other choice for a nine-year-old to bear the responsibility. Reshma started selling bidi packages to the prisoners but that alone did not suffice and she started performing somersaults from the top of the cabs to earn some extra money.
Reshma began working as a stunt double when she was 14 when a stunt man from Bollywood-Azeem offered her to join the film industry. The stunt money could certainly help her feed the family. Despite the poor finances, her father resisted and suggested her to turn down the offer. He believed that the huge risk involved while performing a stunt could not be covered by any given amount of money. Although Pathan had a tough time convincing her family, she was fearless and confident.
After becoming a member of The Junior Artiste Association, she realized that being a junior artist was not enough and she might as well earn big while risking her life to a stunt. She fought for her rights while shooting for “Ganga ki Saugandh” and demanded respect and recognition for women in the industry. The protest resulted in her becoming the first woman of the Stunt Artiste Association.
Reshma had frequent pitfalls throughout her profession as a stunt woman. In Ramesh Sippy’s 1975 Bollywood classic ‘Sholay’, a woman’s life was actually in danger when the tonga overturned. Reshma, who was Hema Malini’s double in the film had a fall when the horse cart hit the rock but it was surprising to see her back on the set in a couple of days. While the director was almost on the verge of deleting the scene, Reshma convinced everyone that she was ready to film the risky sequences again. The entire crew of Sholay gave Reshma a standing ovation for giving a “one-take-OK-shot”.
Once while playing the duplicate for Durga Khote in the film ‘Karz’, Reshma was severely injured when the truck driver bumped her as directed and she was rushed to the hospital. Although she never worked with the director again, a story didn’t stop her from moving forward.
The fact that we still rarely find stunt women in the industry, Reshma’s journey is truly admirable. Her contributions to the industry were acknowledged for the first time when she was invited for a chat show named “Phool Khilte Hain Gulshan Gulshan” hosted by Tabassum where she proudly told the world that the real face behind all the action exists.
Her journey of hardship and commitment is inspiring and there is not one but many lessons that can be drawn from Pathan’s life. The Sholay Girl is unstoppable and she proves that no predicament can ever bring you down unless you choose to be taken down. Even now at the age of 65, she continues to strive and work as a stunt woman and also as an actor. The Sholay
Girl Reshma Pathan, a biopic on the legendary stunt woman herself is a stupendous manifestation of bravery, strength and indomitable resilience.