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Reshma Pathan – Bollywood’s First Stunt Woman

Reshma Pathan was born into a conservative Muslim family. She was the eldest of five children. The streets and by-lanes surrounding her house were her playgrounds and she would amuse herself by climbing statues and performing all kinds of risky antics fearlessly. Then one day her mother was arrested for smuggling clothes, rice and other items and was jailed. Her father was ill and unable to work and the family was in dire straits.

A neighbor of hers who was a stunt director and aware of the family’s circumstances, and who was familiar with Pathan’s street antics, proposed that the 14-year-old become a stunt woman, but her father objected. When she insisted, he smacked her but later relented, realizing her passion.

As Pathan revealed in a Filmfare magazine interview, her father objected because he feared for her safety and felt that no amount of money was worth risking her life. Her motive was basically to earn enough money so that her family could have a decent life. By breaking the stereotype, she angered her male counterparts as they used to double for the actresses.

In 1968, she performed her first stunt in the film Ek Khiladi Bawab Patte for the actress Laxmi Chaya. it was a dance sequence in which the actress trips and falls and slides off the stage. Pathan performed the stunt in one take, thus cementing her career. Her salary, like any of the other stunt people, was to be Rs. 175 but at the end of the day the producers paid her only Rs. 100. She told Filmfare that they did not pay for her transportation either, but that she was happy with the Rs 100 as it was more than what some college graduates made.

After the film, she went on to work with such A-list actresses as Meena Kumari, Rekha, Hema Malini and many others. But life on the sets was not always easy. The working conditions were not up to standard there was a lack of safety measures. She had to fend off unwanted advances made by actors, crew members and stuntmen. She handled these unwanted propositions very diplomatically, using her voice instead of her fists. She told Filmfare that she could have defended herself by using physical force but chose not to. When an actor came on to her, her response would be to say that she was a fan of his and that he would not like that image destroyed.

She was named “The Sholay Girl” after she performed a chase sequence in the iconic film Sholay starring actress Hema Malini. Pathan was riding a tonga at full speed when she hit a rock and the wheel fell off, resulting in her being thrown out of the tonga and suffering serious injury. She got the wound stitched, and despite being warned not to work for some time, she went back to work immediately and finished the sequence.

There were other instances when her life was in danger. While filming a sequence in the film Karz, a truck hit her with full force, but she carried on performing. She told Filmfare that there was not a single day when she left for work that she did not wonder if she’d come home in one piece.


In 1980, she married stunt director Shakoor Pathan and suddenly their world came crashing down when a law banning stunts in films was passed in 1984. With no work, they were running out of their savings, but fortunately for her, she had the habit of leaving loose change and money in jars and boxes, and that money saw them through the hard times.

Now, after all the years she spent being the unknown face onscreen, a biopic called The Sholay Girl has been made about her life showcasing her daring can-do spirit. After all her hard work motivated by the urge to provide for her family, this is a nice accolade.


Retired from stunt work, she has not abandoned the film industry. She now works as a day player because she misses being on a set.

Pathan was the first woman to join the stunt artists’ union.