Film name: Spin
Cast: Avantika Vandanapu, Abhay Deol, Michael Bishop, Anna Cathcart, Meera Syal
Directed by: Manjari Makijany
The Disney Plus classic follows Rhea, played by Avantika Vandanapu, a 15 year old teenager whose life revolves around working at her family’s restaurant, the coding club, her three friends, and her family. The restaurant, Spice of India, is owned by her father, Abhay Deol, who Rhea is extremely close to since the death of her mother.
“We’re a team dad, you and me,” Rhea says.
She befriends her classmate and crush, Max, played by Michael Bishop, who is an aspiring DJ, in the hopes of learning how to make better music mixes for the restaurant. As they grow closer, Rhea starts to truly enjoy mixing songs and learning how to be a DJ, but she pushes those feelings down for romantic ones, and helps Max create a new mix for an upcoming school dance.
When she asks Max how he got interested in DJing, he explains that, “It’s tough to make friends and meet people when you [move a lot]. Being a DJ makes that a lot easier. Like us now, we’re friends.”
As a character, Rhea is extremely likable, and the audience is immediately drawn to her personality and the urge to root for her. She is well respected and adored by her friends and classmates, and even her science teacher.
When Rhea’s father goes for her parent teacher conference, her teacher praises her. “There is no doubt that your daughter is very smart. Rhea is a wonderful student, she’s very focused, and she’s very mature for her age.”
Director Manjari Makijany, who has directed “Skater Girl”, does a great job adhering to the authenticity of South Asian cultural norms, while straying away from stereotypes. Although Deol plays the role of an immigrant father, his accent sounds natural and not overly forced.
Makijany has also incorporated a mix of authentic Indian clothing and Western outfits for Rhea. Throughout the film, Rhea changes between jeans and a top, as well as kurtas, even when going to school. The diversity amongst her friend group is also natural, and it makes the movie seem more realistic.
As the first Disney film centered on an Indian American teenager in her own coming-of-age story, SPIN is a heartwarming movie, especially for first-generation South Asian Americans. Rhea normalizes taking Indian food to school and sharing it with her friends, something not many Gen Z or Millenial Indian kids recall doing without receiving racist or inappropriate comments.
While this is a groundbreaking movie for first-generation Indian children in America, the beauty of the film is also how seamlessly the plot fits into normal Disney characteristics. For example, just because the main female protagonist is played by a South Asian teenager, they don’t make her potential love interest also be South Asian, and instead break the stereotype that Indians don’t date outside of their race.
SPIN premieres on Disney Plus on Friday, August 13th.