The Sholay Girl (2019)
This biopic about pioneering Bollywood stuntwoman Reshma Pathan was produced by Indian video on demand website Zee5. Filmed in 16 days during February and broadcast on March the 8th, the film’s low budget is evident throughout its short running time. Yet an intriguing storyline and engaging lead performance compensate for this sincere production’s limitations.
Opening with actual footage of an accident that occurred during the filming of Sholay (1975), the film flashes back to Reshma performing acrobatics on the street to earn a few pennies. She catches the eye of a stunt director who offers her work, and against her father’s wishes Reshma visits a film set. As fate would have it, a stuntman is having trouble standing in for the lead actress, so Reshma steps in and a career is launched. Along the way she must overcome male chauvinism, pay inequality and sexual harassment within the film industry and prejudice against her profession amongst her community.
Not that any of this is dealt with in any great depth. Much like the tormented father and amorous suitor, these plot points are set up, ploddingly filmed and then promptly dispensed with. Even the stunt work, which this film is supposedly meant to celebrate, is delivered in a lacklustre manner. Nevertheless, Bidita Bag still manages to impress as the feisty young Reshma opposite what could kindly be described as some uneven acting.
In a nice touch, Reshma Pathan appears as herself in the movie’s coda. Though retired as a stuntwoman, the sixty-four year old Reshma still exhibits the same passion for life evident in Bidita Bag’s portrayal.
“[Reshma] told us about how stuntman used to flirt with her, how some heroes treated her, she could have hit anyone but she chose to handle it tactfully…. She did not tell us to hide or not say anything, she rather said she isn’t afraid of anyone. But there are many companies and people involved so to avoid legal hassle it was decided to not take names.”
Movie recreates several stunts from Pathan’s career, including falling off a stage in Ek Khiladi Bawan Pattye (1972), being hit by a truck in Karz (1980), and the famed tonga chase from Sholay (1975)