Free Press Journal

Movie Review: Margarita With A Straw – Poignant but not entirely cinematic

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Margarita With a Straw Review

Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Revathy, Sayani Gupta

Director: Shonali Bose Nilesh Maniyar

Rating: ** *


Shonali Bose of ‘Ammu’ fame chooses to grapple with sexuality of the differently-abled , more precisely  that of those afflicted by cerebral palsy. To bring that to the fore she takes us into an intimate treasury of moments from the life of a rebellious young woman with cerebral palsy who gets a short-term scholarship to study in New York, thus embarking on a thrilling journey of  sexual discovery and love.

Laila(Kalki Koechlin), afflicted by cerebral palsy, is wheelchair bound and does not have the ability to voice her thoughts clearly and succinctly yet she manages to pen songs that wins her college a premier prize in an hard-fought competition. But Laila’s victory is belittled by the announcer who claims that the prize was actually granted as a consolation to her disability.

A terribly hurt Laila refuses to go back to school and instead sets off to the USA with her ever supportive Mother(Revathy). Once there, she bumps into a blind and able Khannum(Sayani Gupta) whom she promptly falls in love with. Khannum and Laila live together but  Laila who is yet unsure of her sexuality is unafraid of further exploration on that front. A handsome fellow student(Samuel). appointed by her college professor , as her course guide, becomes prime fodder for that exploration.

The film has some stirring moments of emotion brought on by tragedy , love and betrayal but despite this seems a trifle incomplete. There’s not much of a story to tell and very little in the nature of plot. The music by Andrew McCleary is peppy and uplifting. Kalki invests Laila with stubborn pride and hurt emotions –all conveyed through facial expressions and eyes. It’s a performance that seeks empathy based on stirring willfulness of the character rather than sympathy for her disability.  In fact, in most of the scenes featuring Kalki emoting ,  the focus is largely on her face and eyes – as though telling us that there is much more to a disabled person than mere motor dysfunction. The coming-of-age elements are a bit formulaic no doubt but the lack of overt sentimentality in the depiction and the evocative performances make the experience richer. Shonali Bose and Nilesh Maniyar manage to put-together a series of evolved moments that educate and inform. The personal inputs from Shonali’s sister’s struggle makes the effort much more poignant and elevating. Unfortunately the overall effort stops short of being completely cinematic.