An MTV StuntMania woman motorcycle contestant gets dropped while astride her motorcycle in a hair-raising stunt where she has to kick-start the bike before they land. This is one of the episodes India’s television viewing population can look forward to when upcoming MTV India and Bajaj Auto (through its Bajaj Pulsar brand motorcycles!) reality show “Pulsar MTV StuntMania” airs.
Presumably, the last thing a successful female actor and model would do at the peak of her career is ride off a ramp or over a freight carrier or into the Arabian Sea? Let alone as picture here get dropped from a 40-storey building, clutching her bike? Except for 24-year-old Smithaa Gondkar who for the love of her passion motorcycling, can’t count the number of times that she’s been told in the last 10 years that pretty women don’t ride motorbikes.
Most people are fed on images of women as pillion riders or as accents for male riders. Still today in India as in most countries, heads turn when a woman shifts gears and zooms off from a traffic light on her two wheeler.
So it can be astonishing to see a woman do a burnout or a wheelie or stoppies – motorcycle acts referred to as stunting — which is the hobby that is increasingly captivating India’s female riders.
In the city of Pune, an all-female group called Stunt Rider Girls now boasts 20 members meeting up on a regular basis to enjoy practising stunts and riding. Most, of the girls, such as founding member Priya Patil, are interested in stunting as a hobby, but 22-year-old pharmacy student Firdos Shaikh says she is now looking to turn her two-and-a-half year old leisure activity into a full-time profession. “Nothing can give you more thrills. Even though chances of a career are not so bright in India, I want to explore its scope abroad,” says Shaikh.
She might not have to look too far – Bollywood is increasingly encouraging professional stunt women, many of whom are doing well.
The new reality show “MTV Stuntmania” preparing for its début is giving women a chance to display their skills on national television. Veteran Bollywood stuntman Allan Amin, who is supervising the show, insists women should seriously think of stunting. Amin is helping enthusiastic contestants such as law student Vartika Pande look to stunting as a career. Pande has been stunting for one-and-a-half years and insists that “biking is in her blood”.
The new “MTV Stuntmania” show also gives amateur stunters a chance. Media student Sherin Solomon, 19, is a biker from Mumbai. In her own words, she “rides around town for 100 km a day.” She is also the only female member of a “B-boying” group (modern form of break dancing) in Mumbai.
There are many young women thirsting to try the unconventional lifestyles completely opposite to India’s cultural ways for women. When MTV auditioned for this show across six cities, 15-20% of the applicants were girls. The percentage was higher in cities such as Pune and Bangalore. “This only goes to show that girls don’t want to be left behind in any field,” says Ashish Patil, General Manager of MTV India. He admits it was a conscious decision to have more girls on the show as “it makes for a better narrative”, but insists the women took on the boys fair and square.
*source assisted content via Sunday times India