Skater Girl

When you decide to make a film, you start with what is called a ‘theme’. It is the point you wish to make through your film and it is the core massage that you wish to convey as a filmmaker. Based on the message and the target audience you develop the storyline, its treatment etc. etc. The journey of a film from the stage of ideation to the day it is finally released is quite long and is full of many ups and downs. Finally after crossing all the hurdles when a film is complete and is ready to be shown to the audience, the filmmaker tries to assess whether the film is making ‘the point’, which the filmmaker had set out to make or not. Generally this exercise of ‘final changes’ is done based on the feedback from a small group of people, who supposedly represent the target audience. This pre-release reality check ensures that the final product is finally the same, which the filmmaker wanted to make when he had conceptualized the idea of the film. Manjari (writer-director) daughter of late Mac Mohan (Arre O Sambha, Sholay fame) based in Los Angles worked for nearly 12 years including working with filmmakers like Christopher Nolan on Dunkirk and The Dark Knight Rises, Patty Jenkins on Wonder Woman and Vishal Bhardwaj on Saat Khoon Maaf, besides other projects like Mission Impossible, Ghost Protocol, Wake up Sid and Gandhi of the Month before taking up a subject to make her own film. For making her debut film, she chose to come back home and make a film with women empowerment at its core. Set in a remote village in Rajasthan, ‘Skater Girl’ is about 16-year old girl Prerna, a village girl, who finds courage to ‘skate’ against all odds when her path crosses that of Jessica, a graphic artist from Los Angeles, who is looking for deeper meaning of life. Manjari, who was exposed to the skateboarding culture during her time in LA, says that it was the video of the sport transforming lives in a small village in a Madhya Pradesh that grabbed her attention. “Upon further research and meeting the skaters there, I realized that Skateistan in Afghanistan inspired the concept. This led me to dig deeper and I began my research in September 2016, immersing myself in the correlation between skating and social change.” the writer-director recalls. Vinati, her sister, who is the producer of the film, asserts that the idea was to involve as many real skateboarders as possible in the project. For the film, the producers have made India’s largest skate-park, spread across 14500 square feet with 100 ramps in Khempur village near Udaipur. According to few claims the story of the film is based on the real life story of one Asha Gond , a skateboarder from village Janwar in Madya Pradesh . ‘Skater girl’ is 2021 Indian-American coming–of-age sports drama film directed by Manjari Makhijany.The cast includes Rachel Sanchita Gupta, Shafin Patel, Amrit Maghera, Jonathan Readwin, Anurag Arora, Swati Das, Ankit Rao, Ambrish Saxena and the Bollywood star Waheeda Rahman. Manjari Makhijany and Vinati Makhijany wrote the screenplay and the music was provided by Saim-Sulaiman. It is a 107-minute film produced by Skatepark Film, Mac Productions and released by Netflix. The movie works on two separate tracks: Jessica’s attempts to get funding for building the skatepark and Prerna’s attempts to carve out a space in her life, where she can skateboard whenever she likes. There are many intersecting issues, which come to the fore: tradition, poverty, schooling, marriage, resistance, change and the ‘possibility’, but the film focuses on the societal pressure the protagonist Prerna faces and how her passion for skateboarding ultimately makes her overcome these obstacles – a point well made by the emotional journey of Prerna and the high point at which the film ends. Another interesting character in the film is Prerna’s charming younger brother Ankush (Shafin Patel), who conspires with her in following the passion of skateboarding and inspires her to finally realize her dream of skateboarding and get her wings to fly by breaking the ‘ceilings’ of society’s shackles! Besides having a good storyline, authentic backdrop, use of non-actors and lesser-known actors (although using celebrity actress Waheeda Rehman was a good idea to enhance the appeal of the end-point of the film) the filmmaker has used the metaphorical power of skateboarding in the film effectively to convey the core idea- skateboarding can change lives! ‘Skater Girl’ is a nice blend of facts and fiction treated realistically and drives home its point- skating or for that matter any sport can induce a wave of social change even in our villages with deep-rooted notions and traditions of orthodoxy! It is a coming–of-age narrative that is believable and uplifting. Enjoy the movie.

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O P Srivastava

A banker-turned filmmaker based in Mumbai. India.

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