The skate park from the Netflix movie is now a training ground for Indian village children

NEW DELHI – After assisting filmmakers Christopher Nolan, Patty Jenkins and Vishal Bhardwaj and directing three short films, Los Angeles-based Manjari Makijany has landed in India to build his first feature film.Skater girl”.

Skateboarding only entered the Olympics this year and is still not a mainstream sport in cricket-mad India. Manjari, however, has revealed that she is excited to find skate parks in more than one location in India, indicating that the sport is gaining ground.

“I had no idea,” Manjari told Zenger News.

“When we discovered skateparks in more than one location, we did this journalistic research to find them and the communities associated with them. We were inspired. That’s when we took a year off and decided to start a skate park in a new location, to bring about social change.

Map of Khempur in Rajasthan, India

Manjari is the daughter of the Bollywood actor Mac Mohan who played Sambha in the classic movie “Sholay”.

After intensive research into skateboarding and its cultural and social impact, Manjari and his producer partners – sister Vinati Makijany and husband Emmanuel Pappas – took on the challenge of building a 14,500 square foot skate park for their shoot.

And Desert dolphin was born in Khempur, a small town in the state of Rajasthan, in northern India. The filmmakers traveled over 600 miles across India to find a place that combined a rustic backdrop and concrete roads for skateboarding.

“Building the first skate park in Rajasthan was a challenge in itself. We were filming in the scorching heat, and we had kids, hundreds of them – all non-actors, who were skating for the first time, ”Manjari said.

After helping filmmakers Christopher Nolan, Patty Jenkins and Vishal Bhardwaj and directing three short films, Los Angeles-based Manjari Makijany (pictured) landed in India to build his first feature film “Skater Girl”. (Kerry Monteen / Netflix)

“We decided to bring in an international team to film all the way in a small village in the middle of nowhere. But, everything has been so rewarding because I finally see our passion project translated on the screen.

The opening scene for “Skater Girl,” which premiered on the Netflix streaming platform on June 11, features a tribal teenage girl pulling a rope attached to a makeshift skateboard as she runs the along a dusty road with his brother sitting on the board.

The coming-of-age film explores gender inequality, caste discrimination and the empowerment of women.

While the sets are usually removed after the movie is over, this was not the case with “Skater Girl,” which was originally titled “Desert Dolphin”. After filming was completed, the skate park was handed over to the local community.

“When we decided to build the skate park, we knew it wouldn’t be just a set,” said Vinati Makijany. (Courtesy of Desert Dolphin Skatepark)

Now it changes the lives of several children in the village, just like in the movie. After the film ended in 2019, Desert Dolphin was used by hundreds of village children to skate for free.

Recalling the incident of a boy “who was considered slow and was not included in things,” Manjari said: “After he started skateboarding he is a Sanskrit topper in his school and participated in 58th National Roller Skating Championship few months ago.”

Three other village children even represented Rajasthan at the championship, held in Mohali, Punjab state, northern India, on April 10.

It was the first time that these children, affectionately known as dolphins, have come out of their village, ”Anish (Kevin) Christopher, children’s trainer and founder of WeSkate Co, said in a statement.

“For them, every encounter was a new experience, whether it was traveling by train, using elevators and escalators, or simply seeing tall buildings. They were amazed to see so many skaters in one place.

Most dolphins work in the fields to help their families make ends meet, but skateboarding is also part of their daily life.

“When we decided to build the skate park, we knew it wouldn’t be just a set,” Vinati told Zenger News.

The filmmakers took a non-traditional approach to casting and held drama workshops for young actors and children from skate communities to finalize their roles and actors. (Kerry Monteen / Netflix)

“So a lot of effort went into making it something that stood the test of time. But it was very satisfying for us that this movie was way beyond what people would see on screen. The structure will remain. there, intact so that the children of the village can use it.

In May of this year, the film studios UV creations and T series, who together support the film “Radhe Shyam”, Decided to donate their film set property to a local hospital in Hyderabad following the peak of coronavirus cases. The set included custom beds, stretchers, personal protective equipment, medical equipment racks and oxygen cylinders.

In the case of “Skater Girl”, the Indian skate park design company 100 ramps and skate collective hollywood assembled the skate park in 45 days in 2018 with the help of a local and international construction team.

“To write the script with a social context, which has to be engaging, entertaining while incorporating subtle nuances, and dualities while introducing skateboarding as a mainstream sport in an accessible way is a difficult endeavor,” he said. Manjari declared.

Shafin Patel (left) as Ankush Bhil and Rachel Saanchita Gupta as Prerna Bhil in “Skater Girl”. (Punishes Reddy / Netflix)

The story follows the life of Prerna, played by Rachel Saanchita Gupta, a local teenage girl struggling to live her life bound by duty and tradition. However, when Jessica, an advertising agent from London played by Anglo-Indian actress Amy Maghera, visits the village, she introduces the children to the world of skateboarding.

The children, including Prerna, quickly developed a passion for sport and ended up skating in the village. But Prerna has the ultimate choice to live up to society’s expectations or to live out her dream of competing in the National Skateboard Championship.

“Skater Girl” also stars Shafin Patel, Jonathan Readwin, with a special appearance by Bollywood lead actress Waheeda Rehman.

The filmmakers took a non-traditional approach to casting and held drama workshops for young actors and children from skate communities to finalize their roles and actors.

“I was a whole new person on sets and I was petrified of skateboarding because at one point I thought I couldn’t do it,” said Rachel, who is making her film debut. , at Zenger News.

Four children from Khempur represented Rajasthan at the 58th National Roller Skating Championship, held in Mohali, Punjab state, northern India. (Courtesy of Desert Dolphin Skatepark)

“But Manjari and Vinita were there for me, and they told me I could.”

Maghera, too, believes that it has been “amazing what they [Manjari and Vinita] have done”.

“I was thrilled to see Khempur, the skate park, and how they donated the scenery to these kids and changed their lives,” Maghera told Zenger News.

“The sense of community and of the kids participating in the National Championship is incredible, and it’s rare to find such caring people. “

“We chose skateboarding because the idea is so unconventional and new, but still has a fantastic impact on the community and the individual,” Vinati said. “It’s such an individualistic sport; you are the king of your way. We noticed it in every kid who skateboarded, and we used it as a backdrop. “

(Center) Amy Maghera as Jessica in Skater Girl. (Yuraji Patil / Netflix)

Manjari is also working on a documentary called “Skate Basti” about the making of desert dolphins and its impact on Khempur.

“We walked through the realities of rural girls in Rajasthan. I met a girl, and she didn’t want to go out. But I spoke to her and she revealed that she got married when she was 15. Her husband left her because she was better educated than him.

“Asking her what she would do if she wasn’t in that position, she cried and said, ‘no one ever asked me.’ So we wanted to tell the story of having the power to think , to educate and live on your terms, in a more authentic way, ”she said.

“The film is dedicated to these children and how such an unconventional sport has helped them gain confidence.”

Previously, Manjari had impressed everyone with his critically acclaimed short film “The Last Marble”, which won the Best of Fest at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival.

Indian skate park design company 100Ramps and skate collective Holystoked assembled the skate park in 45 days in 2018 with the help of a local and international construction team. (Courtesy of Desert Dolphin Skatepark)

She followed with other short films, “The Corner Table” and “I See You”, which won the award for best short film at the Asian American International Film Festival and was screened in Cannes at the Emerging Filmmakers Showcase.

Then Manjari offers another feature, “Twirl», Based on a young female DJ. Released in August, it is the first original Disney Channel TV movie to focus on Indian culture since “Cheetah girls: a world” In 2008.

With an Indo-American lead Avantika Vandanapu, the film breaks down barriers with an Indian-led ensemble made up of Abhay Deol, British comedian-actor Meera Syal and Aryan Simhadri.

“’Spin’ is also a coming-of-age story about how a teenage Indo-American girl finds passion for music and pursues her dream of creating it. I still have this theme of people chasing their dreams. .

(Edited by Amrita Das and Gaurab Dasgupta. Map by Urvashi Makwana)

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Christina A. Kroll

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