Movie Review : Margarita with a Straw (2014)

Rating : 3.5/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2014
Running time : 1 hour 40 minutes
Director : Shonali Bose
Cast : Kalki Koechlin, Revathy, Kuljeet Singh, Sayani Gupta, Hussain Dalal, Tenzing Dalha, William Moseley, Malhar Khushu
Kid rating: R, A

This is Shonali Bose’s second directorial venture after Amu, which I wan’t a raving fan of. I’d heard so much about Margerita With A Straw that I had to watch once it became available to watch here, courtesy Netflix. Post-watch, I have to conclude that MWAS suffers from some of the same problems that Amu had; it is an important tale to tell, but dithers its way towards the end.

The lead character of this film is agile-minded Laila. Laila suffers from cerebral palsy, so while her mind runs free, her body doesn’t quite cooperate. Laila, luckily, has her supportive family around her. Her mother (Revathy), who is only referred to as “Aai” in the film is a tower of strength. We see her immersed in the care-taking, driving Laila around in a van fitted with a wheelchair ramp.

Laila is an intelligent, curious, plucky girl who enjoys her Delhi college experience despite the peculiar vagaries brought about by the disability-unfriendly environment. We see a prime example of this 10 minutes into the film, as Laila is physically carried up the stairs of her college, wheelchair and all, by 3-4 out-of-breath men, when the elevator is out of service. The camera focuses only on her face as she is hoisted into the air, and it is a study in embarrassment and stoicism.

When Laila gains admission into NYU, she comes to New York with her mother. By the time Aai settles her in and leaves, Laila has gained new friends and even a lover. A new phase of her life has begun.

MWAS is a coming of age story, and addresses 3 issues. One deals with physical disability, and the problems one encounters when living in a city/country where the law does not enforce any conveniences for the differently abled – no ramps, no ramp-equipped public transport etc. The second questions the popular perception that the disabled lead mundane, sexless, desire-less lives. The third touches upon homosexuality. The fact that all three issues are entwined with Laila’s already complicated life, makes this a one-of-kind film, atleast in the Indian context.

Given all that, Kalki is a fabulous choice for Laila. She is tremendous. Then there’s Revathy as Aai – also fantastic. In fact, I can’t fault any actors in the film, they were all so believable.

The film, though, had rough edges. It began pretty well, but as it progressed, the waters got muddier. Bose tries to portray Laila as a young adult finding her footing in the world. And Laila makes mistakes, dithers. Which is natural and realistic, but it does take away from the emphatic impact of the denouement.

Also, at the beginning I could keep up with events in Laila’s life. Towards the second half, events and happenings pile up, and the impact of each on Laila gets blurred. The flow is choppy. Laila is working up to being a free, independent adult in NYC, and she gets there. To a viewer like me, her journey (what is she really thinking?) is not transparent, and that is a problem.

Still, a decent watch.

Kidwise: This is rated R, because of the sex and nudity.

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