“It is incredible how one small step can just completely change the course of someone’s life“
We have all seen movies like Skater Girl a number of times— a movie that falls into the predictable trope— which we can call an outdated sport drama. These are movies that give voice to the voiceless, encourage humans to dream big and expose certain societal inadequacies. In Skater Girl’s case, it exposes the fact that sexism is still a norm in some parts of the world and may never be eradicated. Directed by Manjari Makijany and co-written with her sister, Vinati Makijany, Skater Girl is an uplifting sport drama and a journey of self discovery.
The story focuses on Prerna (Rachel Saanchita) and some kids in a remote village in Rajasthan, India. Prerna is a young girl who rarely goes to school and is subjected to society’s archaic belief that a female child is only suitable for house chores and marriage. The life of Prerna changes when a British-Indian woman, Jessica (Amy Maghera), visits the village to connect to her roots. Jessica’s unusual encounter with Prerna and her brother, Ankush (Shafin Patel), makes her catch the sight of a dilapidated home-made board that the siblings refer to as a ‘bearing car’. This sight amuses her and she uploads a video to the internet. This makes Jessica’s thoughtful friend, Erick (Jonathan Readwin) visit the village on a skateboard and this singular act stirs up a passion in the village kids, including Prerna, and creates an avenue that will be etched on their minds forever.
Jessica’s feeling of accountability to the kids prompts her to get them skateboards and as soon as she does this, all hell breaks loose in the village. Some of the kids stop going to school, turning the village into a nightmare with their skateboards, hence, the community’s plan to place a ban on the use of skateboards in the village. The means to criminalize skateboarding in the village conceives Jessica’s idea of ‘no school, no skateboarding’ and the plan to build a skatepark in the village. The series of events that follow, show how a sport can change the course of a young girl’s life and the community as a whole.
Manjari does an excellent job in addressing some societal vices that cripple the society while introducing a sport that is not common in India. This movie attempts to portray how a female child’s dream can be cut short due to culture and traditions. Prerna’s father (Ambrish Saxena) says, “Why are you playing with things meant for boys?”. To her father, the smile and joy that comes with Prerna playing with a skateboard is a roadblock to her real purpose as a female child. Hence, her father’s disapproval to give his own child the freedom to be herself. Consequently, gender discrimination and how the society unnecessarily places pressure on the female child is fully exposed here.
Manjari uses Prerna to portray a captivating story of a young girl’s journey to break cultural barriers and give herself a shot at life. The director captures the struggle and pain that is associated with being a girl child in some parts of the world. Like many parts of Africa, a girl faces so much injustice and their hope at a better life is put on hold either by marriage or an educational ban. In Skater Girl, we see a young girl’s passion for skating clashing with the customs of her people and her father’s patriarchal nature. Moreover, skateboarding is used as a tool that can bring people together and a means to break all barriers.
In the movie, the village has a caste segregation; the upper class members do not affiliate with the lower sect. This is a division that is seen as a norm in not just the village, but India as a whole. In the movie, a boy is scolded by his mother for hanging around the poor kids but in the later part of the movie, the kids just can’t resist their amusement for the sport and their parents can do nothing to stop them. A real life example is the pandemic stopping people from going to the stadium last year. But with the ongoing Euros Championship, where the fans are back at the stadium, it is a clear depiction (just like the film) that sports bring people of different races and cultures together, thereby uniting the world in its own little way. This is one of the fulfilled goals of the director asides giving a voice to the female child.
Societal norms and traditions fail a lot of people, especially the female child. However, one cannot overlook a more cancerous sect in the society— the politicians and government. During the attempt to secure land and funds to build a skatepark, no politician or governmental organization lends a helping hand and this is because they could not foresee a gain in granting one. However, when Jessica secures land and builds a skate park, one of the politicians who once shunned the idea pleads to be a part of the skating competition when he realizes the potential of the sport. In this way, participating in an event that aims to empower young people all over India will surely look good for his electoral campaign, which shows how people rarely involve themselves in things that will not be beneficial to them at that moment. They fail to look far in the future and consider that they will be helping many people in the long run.
With these themes and topics, Skater Girl proves to be more than just a movie. It is a symbol of hope, especially after the final credits reveal that the skatepark shown in the movie was actually built for the movie and is now one of the largest skateparks in India. This promotes a change that has been advocated for generations— a means to stop gender discrimination and give young girls a chance to live an improved life. The skate park, which is now called The Dolphin Skatepark, is a means to encourage young girls and local kids to dream.
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- Prerna’s brother, Ankush, gave the movie a more humorous tone with his facial expressions and mischievous actions. Every scene with him is a joy to watch.
Skater Girl is currently streaming on Netflix.