Margarita With A Straw
Director: Shonali Bose
CAST: Kalki Koechlin, Revathi, Hussain Dalal
This is the story of Laila (Kalki Koechlin), a young girl suffering from cerebral palsy (a condition that leads to impaired muscle coordination making it difficult for the patient to walk or move other body parts). She is bound to her wheelchair. Her condition, however, has not stopped her from venturing out to lead an independent ‘normal’ life as she has the support of her strong, sensitive yet no-nonsense mother (Revathi), a loving father (Kuljeet Singh) and her young brother (Malhar Khushu).
Thanks to her family and her own personality, Laila’s world doesn’t seem any different from any other awkward, unsure teenager grappling with their sexual desires. Laila’s strength of personality comes to the fore when she initiates an intimate moment with another wheelchair-bound classmate, Dhruv (Hussain Dalal). However, her heart beats for Nima (Tenzin Dalha), and when he turns her down, it seems as crushing and heartbreaking as would be with any teen rejected by her first love.
What works for this film is the realistic, practical and matter-of-fact treatment of Laila’s condition, just like the way her mother and the rest of the family go about treating her. There is no melodrama, no lamenting, no openly dramatic outbursts to remind Laila that she is different from the others. The mother clearly worries about her sexual curiosity but she doesn’t make it too obvious.
The first half grips you as you get involved in Laila’s fascinating life, sometimes delightful sometimes painful, even when she struggles to come to terms with her growing desires, through desperate measures or natural progression.
The second half, however, disappoints as it slows down to a tedious pace and the script serves too many complications on one plate. Laila goes abroad and gets involved in a lesbian relationship with a blind girl. And then there is grave illness and death in the family, adding to all the misery. Unfortunately, this otherwise bright, optimistic film ends up succumbing to a rather convoluted script, making it absolutely unbelievable at a certain point of time.
However, certain extremely sensitive, touching moments do try and make up for the flaw in the script — scenes like the one where Laila wakes up to the noise of her otherwise easygoing father’s helpless sobs in the middle of the night, or when her mother leaves her to dress for herself after a fight are memorable.
The star cast is pretty good. A special mention has to be made of the ever dependable Revathi, who yet again delivers a convincing act. But of course, it is Kalki who takes your breath away with a superlative performance. Undoubtedly with one of her finest performances in recent years, Kalki lives and breathes Laila with such amazing ease and conviction that she stays in your head for a long time after you have left the theatre.