It often takes a while for social-message movies to show their effects on society. Even today, we have only come this far despite countless Akshay Kumar films. Skater Girl is different. The skating park built as a set for this movie has now become a primary spot in Khempur and a place where hundreds of children skate everyday. To quote a line from the movie, “It doesn’t happen everyday.”
The film has clear-eyed intentions: through broad-strokes storytelling it tells you to follow your passion and break free of the shackles of patriarchy. Thankfully, through most of the duration it does this effectively. Set in Khempur, a village in Rajasthan, Skater Girl revolves around Prerna. She doesn’t go to school because she doesn’t have a uniform. She can’t use the same handpump as the upper-caste children. She’s heinously oppressed by her father. She has a lot going against her and this creates the recipe for a sweet and straightforward underdog story. Prerna’s life is upturned when Jessica enters. When Prerna and the other children from the village discover Jessica’s partner Erick’s skateboard, they fall in love with it. However, for Prerna this isn’t just an object that provides speed and thrills; it symbolises freedom.
Writer-director-producer Manjari Makijany and co-writer-producer Vinati Makijany build a story that readily lends itself to inspiration. We’ve seen the same trajectory many times before, but Skater Girl is mostly engaging and satisfying. The writing isn’t particularly rousing or original but it’s heartfelt and sincere. We empathise with Prerna because of her circumstances and Rachel Saanchita Gupta’s performance. Rachel imbues her with a tenderness that stays with you much after the film is over. Shafin Patel as her younger brother Ankush gives the film much-needed comic relief and infuses energy into the script.
The adults don’t have as much depth. Amrit Maghera is unable to flesh Jessica out and she seems more like a caricature than a wholly-embodied person. The same goes for Jonathan Readwin. They’re both saddled with clumsy dialogue and the performances are unable to elevate that.
There are other bits that falter too: the symbolism seems too on-the nose, and except for Prerna, most of the other characters lack definition. The lack of novelty becomes a stumbling block, and there are many moments that give you déjà-vu. The depiction of caste too, is problematic. Only fleeting references are made and the makers never manage to examine it with authenticity.
The film’s strongest bits are captured on the skateboard. When Prerna takes off, with the wind blowing against her face, the sense of liberation she feels comes on to you as well. The film isn’t hard-hitting, not by a mile, but not every underdog film has to be. I suppose the film’s primary audience is children, who will probably enjoy the fairy-tale treatment of of the story. And even though the climax seems like a stretch, Makijany steers the story to an ultimately satiating ending.
Despite its problems, Skater Girl is a feel-good drama that asks you familiar questions about passion and following your heart’s calling. At 109 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome and leaves you a tad more hopeful and happy.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.