Margarita With A Straw

Margarita,_with_a_Straw_-_poster

Margarita With A Straw
Release date: April 17, 2015
Directed by: Nilesh Maniyar, Shonali Bose
Cast: Revathy, Kuljeet Singh, Kalki Koechlin, Sayani Gupta, Hussain Dalal, Malhar Khushu, Tenzin Dalha

In a Hindi film universe, where the concept of female sexuality is mostly untouched upon, the makers of Margarita With A Straw present a tale of a physically disabled young woman wresting her sexuality from everyone around her. The free world, that cannot sanely comprehend a woman’s sexuality, now gets to witness a handicapped woman’s sexual dilemmas, and forcibly gets to gulp the uncomfortable lump of truth down its metaphorical throat.

Right on from the first few minutes, the theme of the film starts developing, forsaking the first act of the traditional three act structure. The directors jump straight to what they want to show you, and they don’t sugarcoat it overtly or try to ease it in and slip it somewhere along softly. Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is a young girl who’s fit in with the “normal” kids at a “regular” college even with her Cerebral Palsy. She has a wheelchair-bound friend Dhruv (Hussain Dalal) at the same college who she has known for 450 years, as Dhruv puts it in one scene. She has other physically able friends who don’t patronize her as well.

She has a slur in her speech and a walking disability as a result of her Cerebral Palsy, she writes lyrics for her college band and just like any other “normal” kid, slacks off on the job while lurking on her crush’s Facebook profile. She cries at her first romantic rejection. She doesn’t wanna face the world after her desired lover refuses her advances. Just like any other seemingly normal kid.

Notice how I keep ending almost all my descriptions about Laila with a “Just like any other ‘normal’ kid”? That is exactly the basic struggle of every disabled person’s life. To be treated normally and just with a little care, as Rustom Irani’s recent articles suggested in Mumbai Mirror. We get to witness the same everyday challenges of a wheelchair-bound Laila.

As every disabled person requires some assistance, Laila’s mother wears the additional hat of being her caregiver, helping her bathe, change clothes and carry out her basic routine comfortably. And as many Indian parents can’t understand the idea of privacy, that problem is further heightened here, as being her caregiver, Laila’s mother cannot bring herself to accepting certain barriers with respect to Laila’s sexuality and love life.

The conflict of the story is this simple and yet, so firmly ingrained with the characters’ lives. Thus, this is a thoroughly character-driven film and heavily benefits from the amazing performances of all its cast. Revathy as Laila’s protective and extremely affable mother shines through like a warm, and embracing ray of sunlight. The strong mother is shouldered by an equally charming Kuljeet Singh as Laila’s father. Sayani Gupta, particularly strikes a great presence as the blind activist girlfriend Khanum. She radiates a natural sensuality which brings about a metamorphosis in Laila, and will titillate something in you as well.

Lastly, it is a Kalki Koechlin film here. Present in about every scene, she renders a greatly credible performance in this mammoth of a role. She laughs at the silliest of things some times, and yet it never seems deliberated. Laila is vulnerable, and Laila is strong. Laila’s confused and she’s just trying to find her space. Kalki makes herself irreplaceable with this spirited portrayal.

If you walk in to Margarita With A Straw expecting an inspiring tale of human success where Laila transcends physical barriers of disability, her professional endeavors aren’t a major part of the case-study here, and justifiably so as the film covers a small timeline of events in her life. More than biographical, it’s beautiful slice of life cinema served with a quirky straw.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

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