Skateboarding is amongst the newest & most unknown sports in India, and to think of a girl from a remote village in Rajasthan skateboarding is extraordinary. That’s what the trailer for Skater Girl suggested & it does deliver on the same.
Directed by Manjari Makijany, the film starts with a woman from London, Jessica (Amrit Maghera), arriving in a small village in Rajasthan where her late father used to live. Here she meets Prerna, a lower caste young girl who wishes to go to school but cannot due to monetary constraint. The village itself is shrouded in patriarchy & casteism.
Jessica’s friend Erick (Jonathan Readwin) shows up at Khempur along with his skateboard which intrigues the young kids and Erick is only too happy to help them learn more about it.
The skateboard soon becomes a crucial part of Prerna’s life – a symbol of liberation & dignity. However, this feeling comes across as a little contrived and rushed in the film and I wish they had spent more time explaining this journey of Prerna’s emotions especially in the social context she finds herself in. The movie is let down by its writing & direction which fail to provide depth to the narrative.
There is also of course the whole issue of a saviour from elsewhere who lands in a more or less foreign country and then proceeds to fight & win over years of prejudice & power imbalances there. Even the graceful Waheeda Rehman as the compassionate Maharani who plays a fairy godmother to the protagonists is not able to save this film from such feelings that are bound to arise in the audience’s mind.
Additionally, the film has completely missed the finer nuances of its location. Characters speak fluent Hindi in this village, the policemen even speak English, without a hint of Rajasthani in their dialect. While one can laud the fact that the skating park made for the shoot was donated to the locals, the film doesn’t leave a good impression & is in fact a tiring watch.
Actors Rachel Gupta as Prerna and Shafin Patel as Ankush impresses with their acting abilities even though Rachel needed to work on her accent as it comes across as extremely urban. Their chemistry as siblings is very sweet, especially the scene where Prerna and Ankush sneak out to practise skateboarding at night with torches as their light source. A truly beautiful visual.
The film as a whole seems to completely miss its genre. A sports film doesn’t require a heroic theme but surely demands a profound and deeper philosophy to convey how a sport personifies a human emotion.
Skater Girl is now streaming on Netflix.