Ever wondered how Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Dhoom 2 (2006) or Katrina Kaif in Jagga Jasoos (2017) performed the pulsating action scenes? It wasn’t them performing the stunts but Sanober Pardiwalla behind those dangerous stunts.
Working as a stuntwoman in Bollywood for over the past 20 years, there is no physical feat that Sanober cannot perform. From jumping off a high cliff to diving deep under the sea, she has been performing numerous dangerous and death-defying stunts for the actresses in Bollywood and beyond.
Being a karate black belt, a gymnast, and a professional swimmer from a very young age, she kick-started her career at the age of 12 by performing as a stunt double for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in a commercial. “I somersaulted the ad which indeed became a life-changing experience for me. I remember myself thoroughly enjoying the performance and doing the stunt with ease. It made me instantly fall in love with the whole process and ever since, there was no turning back,” recalls Sanober.
Later, she debuted in Bollywood as a body double for Urmila Matondkar in the movie Bhoot (2003).
Now a mixed martial artist, Sanober has mastered different forms like Jujutsu, Krav Maga, Kung Fu, Muay Thai, boxing and kickboxing. She is also proficient at using several weapons such as a rifle and pistol for sharpshooting, broadsword, staff, whip chain, and samurai.
Besides her love for underwater stunts made her pursue training in advanced deep sea diving. She is also certified in paragliding and sky-diving.
She says, “It is not easy to be a stunt woman.”
“There is a constant necessity of being physically fit. To be able to perform stunts, it is important to consistently maintain a leaner and stronger body, which requires rigorous training,” adds the 35-year-old, who is also an exercise physiologist, nutritionist and celebrity fitness trainer.
She says that it is not a great idea to solely rely on one profession when it involves high risk. “Also, I always wanted to be financially independent. I felt that if I have another profession, even if some mishap happens I will at least have something to fall back on,” she says, adding, that’s why she pursued her studies in exercise and physiology and also completed a nutrition course from The American College of Sports Medicine.
But her professional career hasn’t been without challenges. When Sanober started her journey in the film industry, she recalls that there was no concept of a stuntwoman. “At that point, there were only stuntmen and no women. People used to address and pay us as ‘stuntmen’. I have had experiences where I had to correct people from calling me a stuntman. Now things have changed in the industry and those who perform stunts are mostly addressed as a stunt double,” says Sanober, adding that she is glad to see the transformation of the industry over the years with more and more women joining, especially behind the camera.
Sanober claims to have performed in over 200 movies so far and says that her favourite stunts are those involving bikes or cars.
To those aspiring to be a stunt double in movies she says, “It is important to prioritize yourself. If you are not sure about doing a stunt, or if you feel that it’s beyond your ability, then you should learn to say no. It is okay to say no and there is nothing above your life.”
Watch her inspiring story here:
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)