Skater Girl (2021) ☆☆☆(3/4): When skateboarding comes into her rural town

Netflix film “Skater Girl”, which was released on last Friday, is a likable coming-of-age story about one young ordinary Indian girl who becomes a little more active via skateboarding. While it does not have much surprise as rolling from one predictable moment to another, the movie still engages and entertains us via its sincere storytelling coupled with some humor and thoughtfulness, and we come to root for its heroine more as she tentatively makes her small but significant forward moves along the story.

During its first act, the movie observes how things have been hard and difficult for Prerna (Rachel Sanchita Gupta) and her poor family, who live in a small rural town located in Rajasthan, India. While it is evident to us that Prerna is a smart girl who deserves to have some good education, she often has to skip her school days just because her father frequently needs someone to help his work outside, and she does not receive much help or support from her parents even when she can go to the school, though her little younger brother, who can always go to the school in contrast, is always ready to cheer her up. 

Prerna’s father, who is an old-fashioned dude with a little too much of pride, does not care that much about his daughter’s welfare while mostly occupied with maintaining his position as the man of the house. When his wife suggests that both she and Prerna should be allowed to work outside for earning more money for supporting the family, he instantly expresses a vehement opposition, and both his wife and Prerna cannot object to that at all as his obedient wife and daughter. 

And then there comes an unexpected change into Prerna’s life through Jessica (Amrit Maghera), a young Indian British lady who comes to the town for a certain personal reason. Although their first encounter is not exactly pleasant, it does not take much time for Prerna and Jessica to befriend each other, and Jessica is soon introduced to many other kids in the town as she willingly draws pictures for them. When she spots something equivalent to a skateboard at one point, Jessica shows a bit of skateboarding to Prerna and other kids, and they all become more curious about skateboarding when Jessica’s boyfriend later arrives at the town with his skateboard.

Watching how much the kids in the town are excited and intrigued by skateboarding, Jessica decides to go further for bringing some change into their life. Although she could just leave and then go back to London for accepting the promotion at her workplace, she becomes more passionate about her little project, and, thanks to her, many kids in the town besides Prerna come to have each own skateboard.

Of course, many of adults in the town do not like this change at all just because their status quo is often disrupted by the kids freely enjoying skateboarding here and there. They actually try to ban skateboarding, but the kids are not easily suppressed at all, and we accordingly get an amusing scene where the kids cheerfully demonstrate outside after inspired by a certain famous historic figure in their textbook.

After discerning how much skateboarding means to the kids in the town, Jessica embarks on building a big skatepark for them. Of course, her proposal is rejected by many local authorities and wealthy people she tries to approach, but, what do you know, there later comes a big generous help from someone who is not only very rich and influential but also understands quite well what Jessica aspires to do for those many girls out there.

Once the skatepark is built, it quickly becomes a favourite spot for many local kids, and Prerna is surely willing to enjoy skateboarding more than before, but, not so surprisingly, she soon finds herself blocked by her fear as well as her parents, who do not approve of their daughter skateboarding at all due to their conservative viewpoint. When she later becomes a bit closer to a handsome local boy who happens to be above their class, her parents become more upset, and Prerna subsequently finds herself pushed toward an unfair situation she does not like at all.  

It is not much of a spoiler to tell you that our heroine comes to make a big decision for her life around the end of the story, but the movie still holds our attention as presenting its story and characters with enough care and sensitivity, and director/co-producer/co-writer Manjari Makijany, an Indian filmmaker who previously made several short films and also worked as the assistant director in a number of notable Hollywood blockbuster films such as “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” (2011) and “Wonder Woman” (2017), and her crew members provide a series of fun and exciting moments of skateboarding during the expected climatic part of the film. As a matter of fact, they actually built a real skatepark in Rajasthan for the production, and, as shown during the end of the film, this skatepark still remains a public facility accessible to children and visiting skaters even at present. 

The main cast members of the film are solid on the whole. While newcomer Rachel Sanchita Gupta gradually takes the center with her unadorned performance, the other main cast members including Amrit Maghera, Anurag Arora, Jonathan Readwin, Swati Das, and Waheeda Rehman are well-cast in their respective supporting roles, and the special mention goes to Shafin Patel, another newcomer in the film who always steals the show as Prerna’s plucky younger brother.

Overall, “Skater Girl” imbues with its familiar story with lots of charm, humor, and heart, and Makijany made a modest but commendable feature film debut here. In short, this is another admirable tale of female empowerment which reminds us again that girls can do anything just like boys, and I sincerely hope that it will reach to millions of young girls out there while using Netflix as its mighty skateboard.

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