Film on 10-year-old Mamallapuram skateboarder qualifies for 2020 Oscars short list

10-year-old Kamali practicing skateboarding

10-year-old Kamali practicing skateboarding

It’s half past five on a Saturday afternoon, and the fishermen of Mamallapuram are busy mending their nets. A few metres away from the shore, in Karunguliamman Street, a grinding noise begins and resonates even at the beach. The sound, it turns out, comes from a little girl in shorts and a t-shirt, who is scooting her way across a small skating rink set up outside the community centre in this hamlet.

Meet Kamali, doing what she does best: deftly manoeuvring her skateboard. Kamali is the almost famous 10-year-old skateboarder from Mamallapuram. A short film on her life and that of her single mother Suganthi, titled Kamali has qualified for the 2020 Oscar awards short list.

Her mother Suganthi often says: “As long as you stand steady on your legs, success will come and find you.” This is exactly what happened in the life of the little skateboarder. She and her family received a lot of brick bats initially, as she was the first girl in the hamlet to take up the sport. But the name and fame she attracted due to her skateboarding skills has brought about a change in the mindset of villagers.

“Many have asked me if I can teach their daughters and I say yes. But they don’t continue for long. Many boys too have taken up the sport,” says Kamali, while playfully pinching her younger brother Harish’s ears.


Kamali and six other boys from the hamlet have formed a team called Mahab Skaters and are practising hard to take part in Jugaad 2019, an international skate boarding tournament to be held in Bengaluru from December 6 to 8.

The evening skateboarding session begins with the cleaning of the skating rink. Then, the kids try out different moves and manoeuvres. Many a time they fall while descending a slope, but they just dust the dirt away and continue their practice.

Her mother is Kamali’s driving force. Her growth today can be attributed to the struggle of Suganthi, a single mother. Every day she climbs over the rocks near the shore temple to set up a fish stall on the other side of the beach. However, all her pain and struggles disappear, upon seeing her daughter win hearts and accolades.

“Initially, everyone knew me as Moorthy's daughter. Now I am known by my daughter’s name, as Kamali’s mother. It gives me immense pride,” says Ms. Suganthi.

Early on, many villagers were against Kamali skateboarding. But her mother did not give in -- she wanted her daughter, who seemed a natural with the skateboard, to continue with her passion and reach great heights. “I did not force her to live my dreams, I let her live hers instead,” adds Ms. Suganthi.

Lakshmi Moorthy, Kamali’s grandmother, hides her tears when she recalls how people mocked them as the little girl took to skateboarding at first. But now, Seshan Arun, a class11 student living in the locality, and a member of Mahab Skaters, says that even tourists stop to watch Kamali skating.

“Many villagers who once opposed this are slowly coming forward and asking if she can teach their children. The change is slowly happening,” he explains.

Aine Edwards, from Ireland, a friend of Kamali’s family says that there s a need for a bigger skating park in Mamallapuram. “Kamali’s uncle Santosh Moorthy is a surfer. His friend gifted her her first skateboard. She also loves surfing,” says Ms. Edwards.

Sasha Rainbow, the director of the short film, said: “It is because of mothers like Suganthi, brave enough to open the doors to their world and let us in, and shine light on the hope that is Kamali: a true example of the change that can happen when we let little girls play and explore their dreams.”

Ask Kamali whether she loves skateboarding or surfing more , she quips “both” before skating away.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2022 10:57:06 pm |