Mumbai, 11 Jun 2021 23:06 IST
Manjari Makijany's film showcases the coming-of-age struggles of a teenage girl in an Indian village with the bells and whistles of a skateboard adventure.
Freedom is often found in the unlikeliest places. For a large number of girls in the country, freedom simply means doing something they love. With the spectres of discrimination, violence and abuse haunting their existence, opportunities to experience this freedom are hard to come by. They should not be. As Manjari Makijany's Skater Girl seeks to show, for girls to thrive, they need more than a helping hand.
The story revolves around Prerna (Rachel Saanchita Gupta), a teenager in a small nondescript village on the outskirts of Udaipur, Rajasthan. As the elder daughter, she is relegated to a life of housework and helping her father supplement his income, even as the younger brother, Ankush, attends school regularly. However, she comes to harbour dreams when she encounters Jessica (Amy Maghera), a London returnee.
Jessica is in the village to try and uncover the true story of her father. With the incidental arrival of her friend Eric (Jonathan Readwin) on a skateboard, the kids in the village find a new toy. Where it is just a plaything for the kids and a nuisance for the villagers, for Prerna it becomes the source of her happiness and momentary freedom.
The simple and linear film, written by Manjari and Vinati Makijany, captures the emotions of its characters well. Gupta is good as Prerna, but a little refined in her conversations. This is more apparent in comparison with her little brother, Ankush (Shafin Patel) or her parents. Her interactions with Jessica is where the story's heart comes through. The young actress also manages the more emotional portions quite well. In comparison, Patel, as the impish younger kid, steals some of his scenes. Maghera and Readwin do a decent job as the outsiders who usher in the disruptive element of the skateboard into the village.
The film, though, does not delve deeply into matters. The tension of caste differences is mentioned, but never truly explored. Even the budding romance in Prerna's life, which comes with the shadow of caste honour, vanishes as quickly as it appears. Another pothole is the mystery of Jessica's father and the true reason for her visit to the village. That storyline is lost in the rapture of Prerna's rise. There are also issues in the portrayal of Jessica's viewpoint. Skateboards may have helped a number of young girls, but not every girl can run away from a marriage. They have repercussions that could be potentially fatal. The film offers a simple, optimistic and hopeful solution to the problems that plague Prerna's ilk.
There are elements that touch upon the symbolism of the skateboard and rule-breakers. The snippets of Eric's wisdom about skaters being disruptors in every society, and how every skater learns through injury could have been explored deeper.
Skater Girl showcases the struggles, challenges and threats that a young teenage girl in an Indian village faces. While the ending is a little too optimistic, it is not entirely far-fetched. Perhaps, that is the takeaway from the film.
Skater Girl is being streamed on Netflix.
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