Streaming on Netflix, Skater Girl is a lovely 2021 film about a young girl who lives in a rural Indian village and discovers her passion in life riding a skateboard. Rachel Saanchita Gupta plays Prerna, the main character. She brings vitality to the role of a dutiful daughter who labors for her self-employed father who is struggling to get by, though that precludes Prerna from attending school.
As we see, Prerna’s family is a member of the lower caste, part of a social order with an upper caste that rules the social roost. (In the view of author and scholar Oliver C. Cox, the Indian caste system and American racial stratification were so different that the former cannot explain the latter.)
As Skater Girl opens, we discover that while Prerna does not attend the local school, her brother does. Male privilege can and does begin at an early age. Eventually, she does return to school. This part of the film speaks volumes about female equality and opportunity under patriarchy, or male dominance over females. This social order persists near and far, to the detriment of half of humanity.
Amrit Maghera plays Jessica, a tourist who arrives in Prerna’s area for a genealogical vacation from her life in London. Jessica’s birth father hails from Prerna’s village. Jessica has a male friend, Erick, who joins her. Infatuated with Jessica, he is also a skilled skateboarder. The adult duo have a big impact on Prerna and her youthful neighbors who thrive learning to make and ride skateboards.
As we see, the very act of riding a skateboard threatens the community’s status quo as the kids joyfully discover new frontiers in their young lives. In fact, skateboarding becomes so prevalent in Prerna’s village that adults try to ban it. As you might guess, there are two chances of that outcome happening: slim and none. The kids mobilize and organize nonviolent public protests, following in the footsteps of Gandhi against British colonizers, history the kids have been learning about in school.
Interesting alliances emerge from the village struggle over skateboarding and building a park for the sport. Likewise Made in Venice, a 2017 film set in the Los Angeles neighborhood that is also a mecca for bodybuilding, features characters fighting for the building of a skate park. Skateboarding crosses borders, making it an international sport.
In Skater Girl, local male and female adult figures of means intervene, often in surprising ways. The intervention is not all about altruism. Nevertheless, the skateboard ban disappears like a fist when you open up your palm. The sense of possibility that the world of skateboarding opens up for Prerna and her fellow riders is a wonderful sight to see.
Manjari Makijany directed Skater Girl and wrote the film’s script with her sister, Vinati Makijany. I look forward to the next film project that this duo produces. In the meantime, you can watch Skater Girl, a PG rated film that adults can also enjoy, in the original Hindi with English subtitles.