Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Margarita With A Straw 

Girl Uninterrupted

Kalki Koechlin’s Laila in Shonali Bose’s Margarita With A Straw is a sock in the jaw of every conventional heroine of Hindi cinema.  A young woman with such spunk is rare, so that you have to think twice before calling her differently abled.  (Handicapped or disabled are now politically incorrect terms).

The admiration for Margarita With A Straw is as much for its courage, as for forcing audiences to look at people with disabilities not with pity or condescension, but with respect. Kalki Koechlin deserves every award she will undoubtedly get for her portrayal of a girl with cerebral palsy.  A lot of research and hard work must have gone into it—she is inspired by the filmmaker’s cousin Malini Chib—but she makes it look like she became the character from inside out.

 Laila is wheelchair bound and has speech difficulties, but also has a loving family—particularly her mother (Revathy).  She is talented, passionate and as agile as her body allows her to be. After rejecting the disabled Dhruv (Hussain Dalal) and being rejected by the boy she fancies (Tanzing Dalha), Laila goes to the US for a creative writing course, accompanied by her devoted mother. There she meets a cute guy (William Moseley) in her class and feisty visually impaired woman (Sayani Gupta) and discovers another aspect of herself--that she bisexual.

People must wonder about the sexual desires of the physically challenged, and Bose answers the unasked question—yes, in matters of the heart and body, they are like everybody else. Maybe the film stresses too much on its heroine’s sex life, but there is so much more to take away from it-- Laila’s unbound spirit, fierce ambition and the relationships she is able to forge without any sense of inferiority or self pity.  With all its flaws, Margarita With A Straw is a remarkable film, and Laila will remain a memorable movie character.


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