Talk of a film on the disabled or 'differently-abled', and we all know that it is one subject our industry is never comfortable with. Mostly, our films end up showcasing only their physical constraints and their struggle with a prejudiced world that is out there to humiliate them.
Margarita With A Straw has none of these. Shonali Bose, who debuted with the critically acclaimed Amu in 2005, makes another lovable young woman, Laila (Kalki Koechlin), hold her second film together.
Laila is differently-abled, but that's not what defines her. She is a young woman with very 'normal' aspirations, confusions and apprehensions, and like any other normal person, is ready to experiment. Shonali's narrative is not about whipping up sympathy or compassion. Rather, it is a succinct reminder to all of us to correct our mindsets and be more human.
That Laila is not here begging for our sympathy is made clear very early in the film. And Shonali minces no words, or even sequences, to drive home her point. Here's how she goes about it: Laila's band is awarded the top prize in a college festival, and the emcee says: "Jab humein pata chala ki is gaane ke lyrics ek disabled person ne likha hai to hume ye award isi group ko dena pada. Laila, aapki problems normal logo se alag rahi hongi. Will you please share your experience with us?" A fuming Laila shows her the middle finger and leaves the stage.
The three women actors in the movie are just brilliant. Kalki makes her character look convincing and endearing, while Revathy is amazingly strong as her mother. And the third, Sayani Gupta's portrayal of a blind woman who becomes one of the most important characters in Laila's life, is touching.
Khannum (Sayani) is a strong girl, whose blindness does not stop her from braving through the wrath of police while protesting on the streets of New York against the cops. She also introduces Laila to her sexuality. At the same time, she is also the person who cries her heart out when she discovers that she has been cheated on. Sayani makes all these aspects very believable.
Margarita with a Straw, in fact, is not a story of the struggles of its characters. Rather, it is one that tracks the self-discovery of a young woman, who happens to be a patient of cerebral palsy.
The one-hour-forty-minute-long movie, however, does distract the audience at times. There are sequences which appear rather disconnected. The first one hour of the film is engaging, but beyond a point, Margarita With A Straw appears badly chopped. There are a few random sequences that don't actually add up to anything in the narrative at all.
Still, what stands out the most in this film is Kalki's acting, and Shonali's courage to discuss disabled people and their desires, aims and sexuality.
Should you go watch this film even if you don't know of any differently-abled person in your life? Yes, of course, mainly because this film reminds us that as a society we shy away from way too many things - be it desires of our differently-abled kids or the sexual orientations.