The spirited and artistically talented Naima must do what she can to help her Bangladeshi family earn money. After all, her father, a rickshaw driver, is ill—too ill now for hard labor.
Happiest in a painted swirl of bright teals and reds, the teen may not continue painting her peacocks and alpana patterns on her parent’s metal roof. Instead Naima must leave behind family and home to go to the big city of Dhaka. There, the initial job doesn’t last long, and the teen must find a way to avoid starvation—for her sake and her family’s. Like a Shakespearian heroine, she disguises herself as a boy.
Rickshaw Girl is not a simple feel-good movie, although it has feel-good moments like when Bangladeshi director Amitabh Reza Chowdhury depicts Naima swimming in her paints. Yes, Naima flourishes, but her life is no Hallmark movie. It would be untrue and disrespectful to depict her hard life lightly. The scene where she’s alone in enormous Dhaka utterly unnerved me.
This beloved character is brought to life by Bangladeshi actress Novara Rahman who started acting while still in diapers. Other actors include Siam Ahmed and Gulshan Champa.
Based on the middle-grade novel by Mitali Perkins, the book garnered the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award (2008) and is one of New York Public Library’s 100 Best Stories. (Amazon Prime, Apple TV +, Tubi)