Fearless Nadia's legend transcends celluloid history to become an icon of twentieth century folklore and fantasy.
Nadia's story begins far away from the Indian subcontinent when on the 8th January 1910 Margaret Evans, a Greek emigrant gave birth to a healthy baby girl in then small town of Perth, western Australia. Margaret's husband, Herbert Evans, an Englishman was a soldier in the British army. The Young child was baptized Mary. In 1911 Herbert was transferred to Mumbai and moved to a cantonment at the elephanta islands. Young Mary's early childhood was filled with happiness and laughter and from an early age she showed an aptitude for dancing and singing.
The Great War would soon put an end to that as Herbert and his two brothers (also soldiers) were shipped off to the French frontlines and died historically in battle. Widowed, Margaret Evans decided to stay on in India and bring up her daughter. Mary was enrolled at a convent on Clare road where she also got boarded. On weekends she would go home and be treated to an afternoon at the "flickers". Silent films - "the Greatest Art of them All" - were at the rage and it was here in the darkened halls of these early picture palaces that Mary became captivated by the dare devilry of the serial queens like Pearl White, Ruth Roland etc. As fate would have it, twenty years later she came to be known as the India Pearl White.
In 1920 Margaret decided to leave Mumbai and go and live with relatives in the North West Frontier Province. Mary followed suit and adapted happily to her new life as a country girl. In the idyllic surroundings of the verdant snowcapped mountains, she would go for long rides on her horse Tommy and learnt to pick up thrilling antics from the seasoned horsemen of the various regiments that passed through the area. These years were to stand her in good stead as she blazed across the Indian screen of 1930's and 1940's.
In 1928, Mary returned to Mumbai to start her young adulthood and get herself a job. Starting out as a salesgirl as the fashionable army and navy stores, she graduated to being a secretary with expert skills at shorthand. Always on the plump side she decided to reduce and joined a dance school run by the formidable Russian ballerina, Madam Astrova. Within months Astrova spotted Mary's star quality and asked her to join her dance troupe. Being bitten by the showbiz bug. Mary left her humdrum existence and plunged headlong into a career that would make her one of the greatest personalities in the Indian Cinema history.
Touring round India with Madam Astrova. Many were told to change her name to more exotic one. A fortuneteller suggested the name 'Nada' but Mary added an 'i' and henceforth became 'Nadia'.
In 1930, she left Astrova's troupe in Delhi and teamed up with two Russian artists who were performing at the farmed Zako Circus. Unhappy with circus lifestyle, she did not last very long and returned to performing on the legitimate stage at various cities in India. On one such tour, in Lahore, she met up with Mr. Kanga , the manager of Regal Theatre Group, Kanga was impressed with Nadia's ability to sing Hindi Songs, as well as her acrobatic dances. He convinced her to consider the Indian screen as her next career move and in 1934, introduced her to the Wadia Brothers - J.B.H and Homi.