A Bit of Gender Trickery in a Youth Classic Come to Film through the ‘Rickshaw Girl’

Rickshaw Girl

Rating: 7/10

Director: Amitabh Reza Chowdhury

Writer: Shabari Z. Ahmed

Style: Adventure, Family Drama

Time: 101 minutes

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2gVkngEg2M

Review by Mike Szymanski

Naima as a boy, played by Novera Rahman

The vibrant colors in this movie about the slums of Bangladesh make the bleakness of the story so much more palatable. There is beauty, color, vibrance. There are original native costumes in every scene, naturalistic paintings on every wall and beauty even along the streets in this hectic city.

This movie follows the tale of Naima, who goes off to the big city when her father takes ill. She wants to fall into her father’s footsteps as a rickshaw driver, but that is very definitely a man’s profession, and she is not allowed by anyone despite the fact that she can prove she is pretty strong and capable.

So, Naima cuts her hair and fakes it, falling in with an Artful Dodger type of crew in Bangladesh and she finds herself sleeping next to boys and working as a boy. But, eventually she gets found out.

This is a story like “Mulan,” the Disney animation film (and later live action) that shows a girl disgusing herself as a man to become a great warrior. This is not as bold, but it is just as effective as far as demonstratin female empowerment.

There are moments of stunning animation in this film as Naima goes into a dream sequence and into her imagination.

Novera Rahman is beautiful as a girl, too

This remarkable movie for all ages and genders is the first co-production between the United States and Bangladesh, with the producers including Ziauddin Adil, Faridur Reza Sagor, and Eric J. Adams.

I personally am so glad that this didn’t resort into a story about a girl who is sold by her parents and forced into an underaged marriage, or something like that. This is a girl who is strong from the outset, and tries to be set in her place by her elders, but still continues to make it on her own and set her own boundaries. As bleak as the norms in her culture restrict her, she battles against them, and in the end wins.

Even her mother isn’t completely supportive of her rogue daughter, telling her that her silly paintings will never sell. The girl is a bit out of control, but is determined to head for the dangers of the big city to help her family get extra cash for her father’s treatments.

There always seems to be someone around to be Naima’s guardian angel, and one woman who recognizes that the disguised boy is actually a girl, offers her some beautiful fabric and says, “Be what you are, there’s no pride in being a man.”

There’s also a lovely scene where Naima and her rickshaw painted by her, is featured in the background of a movie scene and the girl meets her movie idol. The star is an actual very famous TV and movie star Siam Ahmed, playing himself. The star comes over to talk and offer extra money and compliments. It turns out to be more trouble than it’s worth.

Naima navigates out of these overwhelming browns, grays and blacks of the city and remains a colorful person with an unflappable spirit despite all the roadblocks she faces along the way.

The film is based on a beloved young adult novel of the same name written by Mitali Perkins. It was honored by the New York Public Library as one of the best 100 children’s books of the past 100 years.

Focusing on the importance of perseverance and never giving up in the pursuit of your dreams, Naima deals with theft, sexism and bullies constantly in not only her own village, but in the city.

The director is Amitabh Reza Chowdhury, known unabashedly as the Steven Spielberg of Bangladesh. The script is adapted by Shabari Z. Ahmed.

“Rickshaw Girl” has already received numerous awards and rave reviews at major international film festivals including “Best of the Fest,” Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, “Audience Favorite” at the Mill Valley Film Festival, the Film’ On Kids Award at the International Film Festival for Young Audiences (Brussels, Belgium), and the Prescott Film Festival.

The feeling of female empowerment and family love permeates the film with an outstanding score that is catchy, and at times overwhelming with emotion. The masterful score is written by Debojyoti Mishra.

Currently “Rickshaw Girl” is on all major VOD platforms.


She heads off to the big city to find her fortune.