Cast: Novera Rahman, Champa, Allen Shubhro, Siam Ahmed
Critics Rating: 3.5 stars
Director: Amitabh Reza Chowdhury
Writer: Shabari Z. Ahmed
Duration: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Genre: Drama, girl-empowerment
Release details: Currently on all major VOD platforms.
2022 Festival run:
- Vancouver Asian Film Festival
- Prescott Film Festival
- Mill Valley Film Festival
- The Buddha International Film Festival
- Durban International Film Festival
Based on the young adult novel of the same name by Mitali Perkins, ‘Rickshaw Girl’ follows the story of Naima – a teenage girl, who runs away to Dhaka to save her ailing father.
Naima (Novera Rahman) is poor but brave. This strong character trait is the highpoint of director Amitabh Reza Chowdhury’s moving tale of a young girl, who is all by herself, in the big city of Dhaka, pulling a rickshaw, her passion to paint and her mission to save her dying father. Navigating through the bustling bylanes of Dhaka and the rural shanties where poverty and despair live, the story is seeped in realism.
Naima’s struggle when combined with the life she comes from and the life she gets thrown into, make for a collective visual experience that brings alive Perkins’ novel. Some might find it a slow-moving portrait of the central character, but that is a good choice to execute this drama. This is because it details the trials and tribulations of a young girl, whose struggle is symbolic of just how cruel the world can be for those who are already downtrodden. Even people from their own socio-economic strata, torture them while the rich remain indifferent towards then. This puts them in a never-ending loop of existential crises that are so hard to break.
The narrative here goes through several ups & downs, making it interesting and engaging in parts, but somewhat predictable too. The production values are top-notch and the performance by Novera Rahman, who largely pulls this all by herself, is exceptional. Other characters don’t get enough screen time to prove their mettle, however they are perfectly cast and they look and act the part.
The setting of a poor village and the struggling girl aspiring to be a painter, starts on a great note and you are immediately sucked into the narrative, but soon, it takes a while to build up. After Naima arrives in Dhaka, the plot moves at a good pace, but here some repetitive conflicts and scenes blunt the impact a bit. However, the slow-moving narrative has its perks. By now, you’re totally invested into Naima’s life and her daily struggles. It’s so easy to root for this teenage struggling girl, whose character shows restraint, grit and depth despite her dire circumstances.
Amitabh Reza Chowdhury’s attempt seems modeled after films based on similar subjects like ‘Lion’ and ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. The script by Shabari Z. Ahmed doesn’t reach those highs but surely shows a lot of promise and keeps you invested. Strong performance from the lead actor and the deft capturing of life in rural and urban Bangladesh are the soul of this realistic drama that takes you along.