'Margarita With A Straw' review: Intoxicating!

'Margarita With A Straw' review: Intoxicating!

Source: General

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 3/5

Saturday 18 April 2015

Movie Title

'Margarita With A Straw' review: Intoxicating!


Shonali Bose, Nilesh Maniyar

Star Cast

Kalki Koechlin, Revathy, Sayani Gupta

We watch as our protagonist Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is being hauled up the stairs by complaining, loud-mouthed staff at the university. The lift isn't working, and that renders wheelchair-bound Laila, suffering from Cerebral Palsy, helpless.

She has a pained expression-a kind of embarrassment that envelops when you have to depend on others for the most basic things. And if affects Laila more, for she is completely independent in her mind and heart.

Laila prefers that others are as nonchalant about her disability as she is. Protected by a loving family, she is happy, writes lyrics for her college music band, and is surrounded by friends. She is also the kind of person who shows her middle finger to a judge, who says her college band won in a musical competition since a disabled writer had come up with the lyrics. Yes, she shows the judge the middle finger, instead of accepting the trophy and "talking about her experience as a disabled person".

Naturally, you like her immediately. Thing is, she's at that age, and eager to explore. She falls in love quickly, and when not reciprocated, cries like any girl her age.

But that doesn't stop her from experimenting with sex. She takes charge of the situation and finds someone to make out with. We are introduced to the more morally ambiguous sides to her personality, when she moves on from this person to another crush.

The film breaks several norms. It's interesting how layered the character is, as films are usually prone to showing disabled folks as having hearts-of-gold. Here, Laila displays all the trappings of a non-disabled person from lust, to greed, opportunism, and even infidelity.

While she isn't too bothered about her physical condition, what gets her goat is her confused sexuality. "I am scared," she says when she realized that she is bisexual.

Her lover Khanum (Sayani Gupta), whom she meets in New York, encourages the relationship and was the one to seduce her in the first place. Their lovemaking is portrayed with sensitivity, as are Laila's other sexual adventures.

The only grouse is that the film portrays her amorous adventures in a fairytale manner, devoid of awkwardness or hesitation and always resulting, er, satisfactorily. In a similar vein, most of Laila's interactions in India, and ALL of them abroad, are with people who treat her like an equal, always encouraging and never saying an unkind word. Heck, you even have a salesman willing to offer her a massive discount on a gadget just like that. Yes, attitudes are shifting and this generation is far more inclusive, but glossing over everything from rude stares to insensitive people and a glaring lack of basic facilities is unfair.

Still, you want to salute Laila and Khanum's spirit and their determination to thrive, not just survive.

From being confused, facing heartbreak, breaking someone's heart, going abroad to study, dealing with a crisis and finally finding herself, the film does this character and her journey full justice. You celebrate each moment (including the one where the family does a heartfelt, awkward dance) and sympathize when she's down and out.

And this remarkable character comes alive thanks to Kalki Koechlin's masterfully rendered performance. Koechlin is dependably good, but here she outdoes herself.

Revathy is wonderful as Laila's mother – a straitjacketed character but likeable owing to the marvelous performance. Sayani Gupta as Khanum brings out the character's strength, dignity and love for fun and adventure.

Shonali Bose (she made Amu in 2005) gives us a film that delights in its uniqueness, breaking of norms, and a self-assured storytelling style. A dash of reality would have given Laila's journey that much more gravitas and credibility. And the film does go a bit off-focus in the second half.

But one still recommends the film wholeheartedly! How often in Bollywood do you see a differently-abled bisexual heroine, one who gets to have her own share of flaws, her romantic adventures, and her journey towards self-actualization? This margarita is intoxicating stuff, even if with a straw!

Rating: 3.5 stars

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