"My mother-in-law-told him that he was a eunuch and that he was ruining her name because he couldn't handle a girl. Go, tear her clothes and rape her."
From being a married at 15, to being a marital rape victim and homeless with two kids at 20, escaping sex work by a whisker and making it big as a stuntwoman in Bollywood, the life of Geeta Tandon is a story worth noting.
The job of a stuntwoman requires training and an unwavering determination to perform the death-defying stunts that add the thrill factor to our films.
Tandon's story is that of a survivor, the kind, ironically, you only hear in the movies.
Speaking to INNLIVE, Tandon relived her career spanning eight years and counting in the industry, and said that she has been very lucky in terms of the work she has got and the people she has met. Sometimes people in the industry do keep a man as a backup and are apprehensive to let women work and there is intense competition in the industry, but wages have always been equal in the industry, Tandon adds.
From having a job making rotis, to being a bhangra dancer and a chance opportunity that got her into films, the struggle has not only made Geeta stronger, but also resilient. Despite all that she has been through, there is no resentment in her voice, and the pride of being a stuntwoman, raising two kids is one that comes across.
"People just want to get into Bollywood, and are ready to do any work that is given, without having any focus. People with a strong focus on what they want to do, are given work and are recognised as well," says Tandon, when asked about her journey in the industry.
Tandon's first stunt assignment involved being set on fire. She sustained burns on her face, but has not looked back since. She has performed stunts for actors such as Deepika Padukone, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Malaika Arora Khan etc.
"People in the industry have been very supportive. Initially, I used to be in awe of the actors I used to work with, but not anymore."
Wages have been a major issue recently, but the stunt industry pays equally for the kind of work that is done, she says. 'There are people who ignore and undermine, but you just ignore them and carry on. I've been lucky that I've met the right people", Tandon adds.
'There are days when there is a stuntman as a backup in case you can't finish the task. It's up to you to finish the task, and I always have. It is a profession at the end of the day."
Commenting on her assignments and the profession in itself, "Of course there is physical hurt in the industry. While breaking through glass, they tell you that the glass is very thin and it will break easily, but you've still got to use force. Cuts and bruises are a daily part of this profession. When I was shooting the car chase scene for Jazbaa, all the equipment was in close proximity. There was this free fall I had done for another movie as well, with just a single cable supporting me."
"Heroines wear really small clothes, and because of that we can't get padded," she laughs.
Tandon claims to be the only woman who has done car and bike chases in the country. She aims to be India's first female action director, and plans to make this dream come true in the next 2-3 years.