Posted in Review

The disabled don’t want your pity

Not that we have never seen any films portraying disabled people and their struggle, but this one surely gets its way out because it doesn’t centralize their incapacities but their strengths.

Born out of the clichés of Indian cinema, ‘Margarita, With a Straw’ rugs away the issues confined to Indian mentality. The movie is an emotional drama about a student struggling with cerebral palsy, who though doesn’t let the disabilities come in the way of her life and relationships.

The disabled don’t desire, do they? This film’s answer to this question is, ‘Yes, they do, they have the whole right to!’

Laila Kapoor (Kalki Koechlin) shifts from Delhi to New York University after getting selected for a creative writing program. She feels embarrassed when a heartbreaking rejection comes her way from the lead singer in her music band, which she writes lyrics for in Delhi University. After her encounter with a Pakistani-Bangaladeshi student activist (visually impaired) Khanum (Sayani Gupta) in NY, she is stuck in the confusion of her sexual orientation, and ends up embarking on a same-sex affair with her. In later shots, she is found revealing to her mother (Revathy) that she is in love with Khanum.

Writer-Director Shonali Bose brings two vibrant things into consideration. One, Laila, despite her disabilities is a free and frisky woman, who writes lyrics for her college’s rock band, surfs lanky porn websites on internet and desires to have emotional and sexual relationships. Second, even though Laila is shown to be highly dependent on her mother, she’s seen leaving her to rely on herself in New York, which albeit gives her the chance to discover her true cup.

Gushing into the delights and dilemmas a ‘normal’ college student faces, Laila is capable of evoking those feelings in those who are college students just like her, dealing with issues of bodily changes ushered by physical and social needs.  She is a charmer, a winner. With her enchanting personality, not only she manages to win people’s hearts by her heart throbbing acting in the film(Kalki), but she makes sure that in a society where disabled people are not even given consideration in the public sphere, she is the one who grabs all the attention here. A young woman wheelchair bound like she is, the audience in this case wouldn’t pity her for her condition, rather she comes across as someone who portrays the life events of normal people crying over heart breaks, giggling with friends, listening to music, operating her laptop with ease, writing for music band, even masturbating to people’s surprise.

Disabled or the ‘differently-abled’ do not want people to pity on them, they long for a normal treatment which somehow people refuse to offer to them.

In Anurag Basu’s Barfi! (2012), the protagonist (Ranbir Kapoor) being hearing and speech-impaired walks off with dignity and normalcy, refusing to accept the people’s pity to live a life on his own terms, just like every other normal person. Bose’s Laila too brings to us a new way to look at the differently-abled.

Khanum, whom Laila moves with into a live-in relationship in New York, is a character with strong opinions about facets of life, politics, society and relationships. Though we never see her getting involved in any such brutality protests again in the whole movie, unlike in the scene where she first meets Laila, her continued authoritativeness over her own life even being blind is spectacular. In a scene, Khanum touches and feels the structures around her in the museum she visits with Laila where the first moment of some sexual tension is noticed between them.

Sometimes, the matches do complete each other. Indeed, Bose gave us in this film; a wheelchair bound young girl, who doesn’t deprive herself of the joys normal people feel, and a blind young girl strong enough to lead her own way of life away from a conservative family who doesn’t accept her sexuality. The two disabled women did pull off a perfect match. Of course, the people’s criticism does lie here as the lesbian relationship isn’t really a thing that can please a lot of hearts as per the Indian audience, but this one does come out winning over even the most cynical minds.

Revathy’s character as Laila’s mother is a scintillating one. She has allowed her daughter to break through all the prejudices and restrictions. There is a father who isn’t convinced on sending her crippled daughter to some other country; on the contrary, the mother, who drives the camper van to drop her daughter, is firm in her decision that eventually does find its place. Sometimes it is not just the theme, but the characters that fit to the plot ready to make all the difference.

The three women in the film justify their roles by remarkable acting.

The film’s plot grapples with shots that are definitely unusual to the Indian audience (but we do need them for change), such as sex scenes (censored in theatres) with lesbian romance; some scenes confound – the awkward brush between Jared (William Moseley) and Laila in the bathroom.

Counting everything, the movie’s narrative doesn’t leave any stones unturned in breaking the very bigotry the Indian society holds. Though a nonchalant end might just leave most of them perplexed and detached, but the film manages to be admired allowing a woman to walk on the path of her discovery, who now surely knows how to enjoy that Margarita of life, with a twisted straw.

Do try out this Margarita; it might just brighten your outlook towards life and people!



An avid learner. An aspiring journalist. A writer. An explorer.

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