Margarita With A Straw: When flawed is fascinating

A scene from the movie  

Genre: Drama

Director: Shonali Bose

Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Revathy, Sayani Gupta, Baljit Singh

Director Shonali Bose normalises disability through a beguilingly simple film on a complex issue. Laila is like any other adolescent growing up in a metropolis that is unintentionally cruel towards the disabled people. She is impatient, coming to terms with her sexuality, loves music and is looking for attention.

Heart broken, she goes to New York and finds her soulmate in New York. With fidelity, insecurity and finite nature of life thrown in, it sounds like yet another syrupy rom com but the difference is that Laila is wheel-chair bound because of cerebral palsy and her partner is Khanum, a visually impaired activist from Pakistan. The disability fails to bound their spirits. Laila is smart and sassy and is in control of her life. Khanum is equally feisty. Laila has her share of crushes and bitter sweet experiences where her disabled friend comments that she is trying to forge bonds with ‘normal’ people or so-called sympathisers who push her flight because of her limited movement.

Shonali doesn’t show off the layers of the film and doesn’t hesitate from showcasing the grey shades in Laila’s character. Laila’s relationship with her resolute mother (Revathy is assured as ever) quietly unravels the concerns of privacy and yearning for companionship. Laila is almost desperate for physical attention and her mother despite all her strength finds hard to come to terms to it. Shonali handles the contours of mother-daughter bond with a light touch.

She doesn’t leave the father out of the frame either as Baljit Singh rises above the stereotype of hen-pecked husband.

There is no phoney moment, as Kalki’s internalises Laila’s limitations but as the film progresses we find some unexplained improvement in Laila’s condition. She could rub her mother’s feet, she could hold a soap bar and at times hold her head. Also, in her sexual encounters, her disability never comes into play. It seems a little simplistic unless Shonali wants to draw a link between her sexual and physical activity.

Similarly Shonali’s way of showing Americans as people who completely understand disabled people and Indians and India as lacking in infrastructure and affection for the disabled comes across as oversimplified. Convenience also creeps in when Shonali takes the mother out of the picture when she has to grapple with Laila and Khanum’s relationship. It could well be a catalyst to infuse the third act with emotional upheaval but in a film genuinely trying to be different it is a cop out. However, despite its flaws, it does what Koshish and Sparsh achieved for a generation of audience.

Bottomline: Stirred well, Maragarita leaves a heady feeling.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 10:53:11 AM |

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