Students at Princess Margaret SS in Surrey can’t get enough of BREAKAWAY star Vinay Virmani
Princess Margaret High School in Surrey, BC, has a population of approximately 1,500 students, of whom about 1,275 are of South Asian origin. That is one of the reasons Acting VP J.B. Mahli jumped on the opportunity to bring the film BREAKAWAY to his school. JB is as “with it” as an educator can be and he wanted to give his students the chance to see a bit of their lives on screen: The movie deals with the struggles of Rajveer Singh, a young Sikh in Brampton who tries to reconcile his dreams of Canadian hockey glory with the demands of family tradition.
The real catnip for JB, though, was the appearance of the young writer-star of the film, Vinay Virmani. Vinay had graciously agreed to come out west with the REEL CANADA tour and we were eager to make the most of his presence. In all, we screened BREAKAWAY three times in two days – once at John Oliver Secondary in Vancouver and twice at Princess Margaret, each time for roughly half the school.
It’s hard to describe the visceral excitement with which these students devoured the story of the film, and then practically devoured the star himself. After the screening and the Q&A, and a great many autographs and hugs, we had to get pretty forceful about moving Vinay through the crowd of about 600 12-year-olds who were pretty forceful themselves in their quest for a piece of Vinay.
More than just the celebrity fever, though, the most poignant part of the day was watching Vinay speak to these kids, ask them about their dreams, and encourage them to pursue them relentlessly. He responded to their adulation (at all three screenings) with enormous humility and a sense of responsibility as a member of his community giving these young people something of value to look up to.
It was a moment when the movie, the star and the audience all blended seamlessly into a perfect REEL CANADA moment, inspiring young people to celebrate the wonderful country they live in and being inspired by them in turn.