Movie Review: Margarita, With a Straw

April 17, 2015

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In Shonali Bose’s “Margarita, With a Straw”, there is a scene towards the end where the unraveling of a relationship is captured faithfully by the camera – there are accusations of betrayal, tears over what could have been, and frantic declarations of love. It is to Bose’s credit that in spite of the fact that it involves two women who are both disabled, she treats it in the same way that most films would treat a scene of this nature involving a heterosexual, abled couple.

Protagonist Laila may have cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that affects motor functions, but that is the least of the film’s focus – at least in the beginning. She is like any normal teenager, developing crushes on rock-star classmates, dealing with heartaches and surfing for erotica on the internet when her whole family is asleep.

When she moves to New York to study and meets fiery activist Khanum, Laila realizes that she not only has to contend with her physical condition, but also has to come to terms with her sexual identity.

The first half of the film, which Bose uses to set up her characters and their environment, drags on for a while, only to pick up post-interval. That might sound like a good thing, but in her eagerness to introduce some drama in Laila’s life, Bose injects too many contrivances and conflicts in the plot.

The illness of a loved one, the conflict over her sexuality, the disability of another friend – they all crowd the goings-on in the second half of the film and weighs it down.

It is almost as if the film-maker wants to extract every bit of sympathy for her character, something she consciously avoided in the beginning of the film. Despite the heartfelt performances, especially by Revathy (who plays Laila’s feisty mother), the film strikes many a false note.

Only Kalki Koechlin salvages the film in these moments with her understated and sensitive portrayal of a girl who is unabashed about her sexuality and unafraid to explore it. She embodies Laila, and therefore makes her story believable.

(Editing by David Lalmalsawma; Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay and David @davidlms25This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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