Margarita With A Straw: Timeless Poetry on Celluloid
By Faridoon Shahryar
By Faridoon Shahryar
When the lead character of a film is disabled and the narrative still manages to be naturally elevating, it holds the interest. Also, if the film unfolds sensitive and humorous layers of delightfulness then its a treat to watch. Shonali Bose directed 'Margarita With A Straw' is timeless poetry on celluloid. It is the story of Laila (Kalki Koechlin), (a girl afflicted with Cerebral Palsy) and how she discovers her Self after undergoing varied relationships along with the emotional baggage that comes along with it. The story makes you get sucked into a new world of enlightenment without being preachy or boring so if you are expecting vicarious pleasures and cheap thrills then don't watch this.
Laila believes she's a normal girl and she behaves like one, so what if her world is caged on a wheel chair. She is blessed with wonderful creative talents and she also has a fetish for watching Porn. Like any other young girl she has sexual urges and she's not apologetic about it. In fact she goes out and tries to buy a Vibrator, much to the discomfort of the shopkeeper. She falls in love, writes love songs and then the wretched 'sympathy' of the world breaks her heart. She regroups herself, goes to US on a scholarship and gets confused about her sexual orientation. But she's happy in the company of Khanum (Sayani Gupta), a blind but attractive girl who makes her feel sexually desirable for the first time in life. There's happiness in air. Laila always wanted to be independent. She achieves that. She also cheats, making her that much more human. And Real. Laila's relationship with her Aai (Revathy) is beautifully structured. The belief and support of the parents of the specially challenged kids is such a pillar in helping such patients carve a place for themselves in the society.
The lesbian interaction between Laila and Sayani will raise eyebrows. Since Deepa Mehta's FIRE, never has Indian cinema shown such literal depiction of sexual togetherness of two women. Full credit to Shonali Bose for having displayed a lot of sensitivity and courage in believing in her vision. Kalki and Sayani flow like an unstoppable free flowing stream. As I've mentioned earlier, there are no cheap thrills here. Two physically incomplete women complete themselves by merging in a Union of what they thought was Love.
Kalki has delivered one of the finest performances by an Indian actor ever. Her brave portrayal of a wonderfully strong girl with her share of shortcomings, ought to be watched by people from all across the world. The requisite body language, the wide gamut of facial expressions pronouncing myriad emotions and a total submission to the director's vision must have required a lot of courage. Many actresses would have turned wobbly kneed at the prospect of many scenes in the film but Kalki doesn't flinch at all. There's a toilet scene where she's helped by a guy. It's not an easy scene for the best of actresses to pull off with such conviction. When she asserts herself on a nurse who is careless towards her mom, it's a strong moment that stays with you. There are many such prized scenes.
Revathy brings in several nuances in her role. Her strength rubs off on her daughter. The inner turmoil that she is going through due to her own battles with life brings tears in the eyes. Sayani Gupta as Khanum is formidable. Like Kalki, she's inhibitionless. The high-spiritedness and the vaccum of loneliness is portrayed expertly. It's so real that the pretence fades away. The supporting cast is excellent. Kuljit Singh plays Laila's father. He is adorable.
'Margarita With A Straw' is blessed with brilliant writing. Director Shonali Bose is credited with story, script and dialogue. Nilesh Maniar is the co writer (also the Co-Director) while Atika Chohan has written the Hindi dialogue. The confluence of Hindi and English is a natural progression of most of the conversations that happen in the educated strata of the Indian society. What's slightly ambiguous is the fact that Laila's father is a Sikh but she calls her mom as 'Aai' and it's never established that Revathy is a Maharashtrian.
Anne Misawa's cinematography is minimalistic. The shots are simple and capture the essence very well. The love making scene between Laila and Khanum is shot very tastefully. Monisha Baldawa's editing ensures that the narrative flows like a river heading towards a definite destination. Some will find the pace slow but then its not a film for everyone. Mikey Mcleary's music is excellent. Prasoon Joshi's lyrics adds value to the depth of the matter. 'Dusokute' the only song by Joi Barua is an enticing soft rock nostalgic-college-anthem. 'Choone Chali Aasmaan' comes at an opportune moment in the film. 'I Need A Man' electrifyingly sung by Vivienne Poocha hits all the right notes of ecstasy. 'Laila's Theme' the instrumental piece is a regular likable companion that holds your hands throughout the film.
'Margarita With A Straw' is a milestone film that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. Like 'Theory of Everything' the disabled protagonist is entertaining to the hilt and rises above the stereotypical norms that are harshly prescribed by a judgmental society. Shonali Bose has made a film that makes you smile, cry, think and introspect. It's a journey worth treasuring. Do yourself a favour by watching 'Margarita With A Straw'...it is an experience of a lifetime.
Star Rating: ****