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A new Netflix release, Skater Girl, shows what women can do if they stand up for themselves and other women, never mind the patriarchy.
*a few spoilers alert
Prerna Bhil is a tribal teenager in Khempur, a small Rajasthan village. near Udaipur. As a girl from a poor family in a marginalised community, all she can expect from life is the same as her mother and all other women around have lived. An education, a career, a life lived for her dreams is something she cannot even imagine, and seems to have made peace with this.
Even more than a girl’s education, any kind of sports for girls is unheard of in most of rural India. And a competitive sport that puts her in the public eye, keeps her away from household chores, and the duties of being a good daughter? Absolutely not!
As girls grow up, they lose the public spaces needed for playing a sport. They are expected to keep away from all these ‘frivolous’ things, if they are to not ‘dishonour’ their parents and community. Moreover, a so called ‘lower caste’ girl shouldn’t dare to dream of things beyond her station.
But one day, Jessica, a British woman with her roots in India, comes to the village, and shows her a different way to dream altogether, and literally fly and reach for the skies.
Will Prerna get to live her dreams? Will the expectations of her parents and the community, as well as the system that is rigged to keep girls and women chained to home and a pre-determined, dreary domestic life win? Or will she be able to break all unfair expectations and fly?
In many ways, it was down to the efforts and strength shown by 4 badass women.
The first, and obvious young woman is the protagonist herself. She does what most Indian girls and women know very well how to do – live their lives in little pockets of freedom wrested from a society closing in to chain them to the household.
Except the dream she dreams as a result of learning to skate it so huge, that she bursts out of her restrictions in a blaze of glory.
Jessica, the 30 plus year old British woman is a curiosity to the locals in the beginning, becoming a thorn as she puts down roots. Roots that were already there in an interesting twist of events set off many, many years ago, in the very village of Khempur.
Jessica’s appearance in the narrative makes it very clear how she would be perceived. Her modern, western clothes and confident bearing in a juxtaposition to the veiled women in the families she travels with to the village, and the attitude of the men from whom she tries to take directions.
Prerna’s mother is an interesting, and a character that so many women with daughters will resonate with.
She is the bridge between the dreams of her growing daughter and her traditional husband’s wishes, trying to protect Prerna to the best of her abilities, understanding her needs and even helping her along even if covertly. An uneducated woman who dos not understand all that is going on, but enough to understand that this is what makes her daughter happy.
At one point, in a heart to heart chat, she asks Prerna, “Tumhe skating mein itna kya accha lagta hai? (What do you like so much in skating?)”
To which Prerna replies, “Lagta hai kuchh aisa hai jo main kar sakti hoon, koi roktok nahin hai, koi rules nahin hai (I feel like this is something I can do, there’s no one to control me, no rules to follow.)” A dream to be free.
The regal Waheeda Rehman is in a role almost custom made for her, as the Maharani.
She helps push through the programme of skating and building a skating park in the village, when Jessica and all others trying to make the dreams of the kids come true come across systemic roadblocks – the misogynist school teacher who dictates terms and politicians who are invested in keeping the status quo and see no reason why they should help cut the red tape to get the infrastructure in place.
The Maharani also plays a very important, more ‘social’ role towards the end, which is to be seen on screen.
With some stellar performances, this feel good movie that takes inspiration from (but is not based on) a real life such skater girl Asha Gond from Madhya Pradesh, is a good watch for your Sunday with family.
In her role as the Senior Editor & Community Manager at Women's Web, Sandhya Renukamba is fortunate to associate every day with a whole lot of smart and fabulous writers and readers. A doctor read more...
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