For those of us who live in the United States of America, we never realize how isolated we are. Surrounded by oceans, both the Pacific and Atlantic, it isn’t until we are able to travel to other countries or watch films about the culture of other places, that it hits us. We are very blessed and fortunate to live in the States. But what if you lived in a country where your station of birth ruled your destiny with little or no freedom of choice? And, how can a skateboard offer a young girl the chance for freedom?
We follow a young teenager and her family living in Rajasthan, India. Prerna (Rachel Saanchita Gupta), was born into a poor lower caste family, therefore sealing her fate to a limited education, and a life of hard work. Even though she is young, her father pulls her out of school constantly to work the market to help bring in money. On the few days that she is able to go to school, she is teased because she doesn’t have the proper uniform or textbook. Her brother Ankush (Shafin Patel) is very protective of his older sister and is always protecting her from her father’s wrath.
One day, a stranger arrives in town, and makes friends with Prerna. Jessica (Amy Maghera) is from London and has a very high-powered job, but she is in this remote town to see the place where her father was born and to learn about her past. Prerna is stunned when Jessica asks the girl what her plans are for the future. No one has ever asked Prerna this question. Her future is in the hands of her father, who is making arrangements to marry off his daughter…thus making her a slave to her husband and his family.
After Eric (Jonathan Readwin), a close friend of Jessica’s, arrives in the village with his skateboard, the world for these poor children takes a turn for the better. Eric patiently teaches Prerna and the other children to skateboard. To watch the joy in Prerna’s eyes as she rides the skateboard for the first time… is humbling. When you live in a country with social safety nets, it is shocking to face what happens on the other side of the coin.
It isn’t long before the children get into trouble for skateboarding because there is no specific place assigned for them. The police get involved and the boards are banned, but that doesn’t stop Jessica from fighting the system: She will find the funds to build a skateboard park in the village and to hold the town’s first championship event.
Skater Girl is a worthy gem to add to my Granny’s Insomnia Theatre Collection. Rachel Saanchita Gupta’s Prerna walks a balancing act between carving a small space of freedom to participate in sports with following the strict boundaries carved in stone when it comes to the caste system and her dreams of a future. Rachel’s character was the highlight of this film, as were the other children.
Here are some very interesting facts about the film. In the final credits, we learn that a real skatepark was built for the filming of Skater Girl, and it still stands in Rajasthan. It is one of India’s largest skate parks and has helped to foster the love of skateboarding.
The film is believed to be based on Asha Gond, a real live 2018 Indian skateboarding champion although Makijany denies this and claims that his inspiration came after reading about German activist and writer, Ulrike Reinhard travel to Jamwar.
You can watch Skater Girl on Netflix. Please do so. It is a beautiful film about a beautiful people, all of whom share the desire for freedom.