Skater Girl (2021)

Still of the film Skater Girl, young Indian girl holding a skateboard and looking at the viewer
Source: IMDB

I don’t often give out 9 stars out of 10 but ‘Skater Girl’ thoroughly deserves each one.

If, like me, you’re part of the South Asian diaspora, you’ve grown up watching Bollywood. I’m very used to the feel-good films, the corny-but-cute rom-coms, the classics with their high drama and soaring scores. ‘Skater Girl,’ though it has touches of tender romance, is not one of those films. It’s a film about a young girl, Prerna (Rachel Saanchita Gupta), on the cusp of womanhood who wants to go to school, who is reaching out for something but also cannot see how she can leave her assigned path. Enter Jessica (Amy Maghera), a woman with hidden connections to the village. No spoilers but looking at the film’s title, I don’t think it’s too much to say skateboards ensue.

The clever part is that the skateboard is essentially another character in the film; Prerna’s Rosebud. When she skates, she is gloriously free, she is truly alive. The board is not a piece of wood on wheels, what it symbolises is far, far greater. The film’s brilliance is the way that skating, the visiting British woman and the village background are all interwoven such that, even over two hours, the story’s pace never languishes.

I’m avoiding all specifics as I want you to watch this film for yourself but I can say that this film moved me deeply. It hit nerves I didn’t know I had. A lot of this is due to the stunning performance of Rachel Saanchita Gupta in the starring role of Prerna. The joy, grace and fierceness she imbues into Prerna seem utterly natural, there’s never an exaggeration or needless embellishment.

The same could be said for all the cast, including the charming, chaotic gang of skater kids tumbling through the dusty village streets. Every person is perfectly used in each of their roles. The direction is flawless. It’s a testament to Manjari Makijany that she’s the producer, writer and cinematographer as well as directing this gem of a film. You really can’t get more auteur than that, which is evident in the aesthetic and narrative cohesiveness. We have shots that are pure poetry, we have tiny exchanges between actors that are novels. In particular, I want to give Makijany extra props for her direction of the little kids – I really haven’t seen anything this real and non-romanticised since Truffaut’s ‘L’Argent de poche.’

It would have been easier to have made a less challenging film, to have made the father a caricature villain instead of the complex, flawed man he is, stuck in his life like a fly in amber. The director could have elided the brutal reality of caste or of South Asian diasporic privilege. She could have made a more traditional, less realistic film. Or, conversely, she could have made a ‘gritty,’ Western-oriented film where Indians have no agency or humanity, they’re just poor, silly natives for white people to cry about before slipping into some cool new threads made by child labour.

The fact that ‘Skater Girl’ dodged those pitfalls but is still fundamentally a feel-good film about reaching for your dreams, about getting up every time you fall down is why I love it. It is witty, silly, passionate, provocative. If you have a heart not made of stone, it will make you laugh and cry.

It’s life, affirmed.

42 Years Ago Today : The Last Message Of Harvey Milk

42 years ago today, Harvey Milk made this message:

“This is Harvey Milk speaking on Friday, November 18, 1978. This tape is to be played only in the event of my death by assassination.

“I fully realise that a person who stands for what I stand for, an activist, a gay activist, becomes the target or potential target for a person who is insecure, terrified, afraid or very disturbing.

“Knowing that I could be assassinated at any moment, at any time, I feel it’s important that some people know my thoughts, and why I did what I did. Almost everything that was done was done with an eye on the gay movement.”

“I cannot prevent some people from feeling angry and frustrated and mad in response to my death, but I hope they will take the frustration and madness and instead of demonstrating or anything of that type, I would hope that they would take the power and I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise.

“I would like to see every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up and let the world know.

“That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody could imagine.

“I urge them to do that, urge them to come out. Only that way will we start to achieve our rights.”

“All I ask is for the movement to continue, and if a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

He was assassinated nine days after making this message.

Creepy Old Man

That’s me when I was a kid.

Around the time this pic was taken, my Mummy tried to have a birthday party for me and my schoolfriends. Bear in mind that both my parents were doctors so we lived in white neighbourhoods, upper working class ones as white middle and upper class people would not sell houses to Asian immigrants in the 70s, no matter what they did for a job. We lived in Hellesdon, Norwich, in a little bungalow. None of the neighbours on the actual street spoke to us – they had, in fact, lobbied the vendors not to sell to ‘Pakis.’

So I was at Primary School, fully immersed in racism from the teachers every day and my schoolmates more sporadically. But I had a cohort of… associates? We’d play at playtimes, open-mouthedly examine hirsute caterpillars, normal kid stuff.

So, my lovely Mummy organised a party. She wanted it to be fantastic, obviously, what parent doesn’t? She gave me little invites to hand out to my friends and she bought English party snacks. She deliberately did not make Indian treats as she wanted the kids to see how ‘normal’ we were and that we didn’t stink (‘smelly Pakis’ was a big racist trope around then and another reason I’m still paranoid about how I smell).

The day of the party, my Mummy got everything ready. And we waited.

No-one turned up.

I didn’t really know how to feel, I was surprised but… maybe this was simply what parties were like? But my Mummy got upset and she started crying and clearing away the crisps and chocolates she’d put out. She’d never wanted to leave India, never wanted to be forever seen as an outsider and be forced to be four times as talented as any white person to get half as far. She’d never wanted to see her small son come home from school every day covered in bruises and confused and crying. I tried to comfort my Mummy by hugging her but I remember this made her more upset. So, I think I took my cue from her and started crying.

The next day at school, various kids I’d given invites to came up and made excuses which I found puzzling. Then one kid said, “I wanted to come cos I love parties but my Mum said I can’t play with dirty niggers.” (Yes, I’m Indian, not black but racists are nothing if not stupid.)

A girl called Catherine took me round the side of one of the buildings. She said she was my friend but not to tell anyone as her parents hated wogs. Then she gave me a hug. Later that day, she laughed and joined in when the lad who’d called me a ‘dirty nigger’ tried out ‘coon’ for a bit of variety. I didn’t realise it then but that moment set the pattern for a lot of my adult relationships.

All my fucking life, for varying reasons, people have been ashamed or embarrassed or fearful of being seen to be my friend. Sometimes because I’m fat. Sometimes because I’m uncool. A lot because of my colour. They have racistly bullied me in public then privately apologised, saying they’d know I would ‘understand.’ I have had two girlfriends who claimed to love me but I had to carry out secret relationsips with because one or both their parents were virulent, violent racists and they were ‘worried for my safety.’

I entered a third relationship like this decades ago and realised something.

I’d had enough.

The first ever White Town song was about that realisation, specifically in the lines:

Well it’s a white town with green trees
And nothing in love is free
So if it’s not worth fighting for
It’s worth nothing at all

When you realise that someone you love sees you as embarrassing, as an awkard fact to be explained away, to be minimised and hidden, that they’re ashamed to be seen in public with you… in that moment I’m that kid at the party again. I’m pulling up three streets from a girlfriend’s house so her BNP Dad won’t see me. I’m looking at Catherine and being confused because she was hugging me earlier but now she’s calling me a fucking coon. She’s not sticking up for me… at all.

My heart is broken.

I feel very lonely.

Fizzing

So much has been happening to me.

So much loveliness.

I’m fizzing.

Do you know those times when you are so terribly excited that you start to lose the ability to speak lucidly or slow down enough to be intelligible? Those times when all the tiny hairs on the back of your neck seem to join the same army and, as one, they rise up and fuck-up your usually debonair and enui-laden persona.

Those times when you see someone and you want them so much you feel yourself actually growling. Growling with the hunger of needing them so fucking badly, of needing to feel their naked skin to yours. Needing to be inside them, to feel them around you but also for them to be inside you, for them to feel how much you trust them and love them.

Those times are now.

I’m going to make sure I’m in them forever.

Batman Or Twatman

responding to the above meme…

Hmm, I dunno ~ there’s the post-Snyder, ruined Batman who wields machine guns and murders his way through a group of henchmen with nary a qualm. He’s not too clever but is BUFF and A BILLIONAIRE. Er… and… er… that’s it?

Then there’s the guy I grew up reading about, the greatest detective alive as written about by Detective Comics. The hero who refused to kill anyone because he was so traumatised by seeing his parents murdered in front of his eyes. An intellectual who played the fool and used all his power and wealth to fight crime for no reward or recognition. Who realised that he had to actually *take care* of his greatest nemesis because that person was broken and not wholly responsible for his actions, as vile as they were.

tl;dr – Batman wasn’t always a dickhead, blame Snyder.