Rating: 3/5 Stars (Three stars)
Star Cast: Kalki Koechlin, Revathi, Sayani Gupta, Hussain Dalal
Director: Shonali Bose
What’s Good: Rarely do we come across films in Bollywood dealing with complex issues such as that of Cerebral Palsy and let alone someone with the disorder suffering an identity crisis due to choice of sexual orientation. Margarita With A Straw does exactly that. It is a brave attempt at presenting the life of a disabled person who is highly aspirational. One particular thing that I loved about the film is that, there are moments when you may feel sad for Laila but at no point will you pity her and that’s a great achievement.
What’s Bad: Like most film makers, Shonali Bose too suffers in giving us a good second half. The tepid climax is a disappointment. Even plot-wise, the film has a few setbacks, as an unnecessary sub plot ruins it.
Loo break: One won’t do any harm!
Watch or Not?: I will definitely recommend the film in spite of its loopholes. Including the glitches, it is still a better film than most Bollywood dramas you will watch. It is a slice of life film and Kalki Koechlin’s best.
Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is a middle-class Delhi bred girl who suffers from Cerebral Palsy. She is the apple of the eye for her mother (Revathy) and father (Kuldeep Singh). Laila has been brought up with full support from her parents and is never treated in a manner that would harm her confidence dealing with her normalcy. Laila is studying at Delhi University and hangs out with her friend Dhruv (Hussein Dalal) who is also bound to the wheelchair like her. Having musical talents, Laila is a gifted writer and is writing songs for her college rock band.
During the jam sessions of the band, Laila meets Nima who is the lead singer. In the ripe age of late teens, she falls for Nima and in a special moment even confesses it to him. Due to an awkward rejection from him, Laila is left heart broken and soon drops out of college because of embarrassment. After getting selected at the New York University, Laila leaves along with her mother to Manhattan even as her Dad disapproves this decision.
In US, Laila is adjusting to her new course where she meets Jared (William Moseley) who offers her help in typing. Laila is smitten by his cute looks but this time remains cautious due to fresh wounds from Nima’s rejections. In a chance meeting of sorts, she then meets Khanum (Sayani Gupta) who is a blind Pakistani girl. Unknowingly, Laila is drawn into a same-sex relationship with her, and later finds difficulty in coming to terms with her sexual orientation.
Will Laila be able to accept her bisexual nature and how will it affect her life ahead is what is left to see.
Margarita With A Straw Review: Script Analysis
Dealing with a story that has a protagonist suffering from Cerebral Palsy and presenting it on celluloid is a tough job. There are various perspectives that Shonali could have chosen and here she settles for two complicated things. On one hand she tries to rid the myths that people have formed over those disabled and on the other hand how the acceptance of bisexuality or for that matter one’s sexual orientation is a complicated process. Through the character of Laila she presents to us a naive, independent girl who is high on aspirations and wants to explore sexually just so that she can convince herself of her normalcy.
The narrative is overall quirky and plays with Laila’s character wonderfully without you feeling morose for her or showing her to be an outcast in any manner. The problem arises when Shonali sticks to Laila’s identity crisis for the entire film and the matter produced is not enough. Also a sub plot involving the dear one of Laila suffering from a fatal illness that comes to the fore towards end, becomes a drag. In the second half, Bose loses her hold over the script and it leads to a tepid end.
Margarita With A Straw Review: Star Performances
Kalki Koechlin masters the role of Laila with full spirit. She is so natural that if one would have not seen her previous works, they could have easily thought her to be an disabled person with acting skills. Her body language and her speech both are perfect for her character.
Revathy as the doting mother does a fine job. Only an actress of her caliber can pull off this role. She is extremely endearing and will remind everyone of their mother with her simplistic and lovable act.
Sayani Gupta as Khanum, Laila’s love interest is quite impressive. Her character lacks the fodder for her to shine yet, she plays the role with full honesty.
Kuljeet Singh as the father does not have a very big role in the film. Yet in one particular scene when he breaks down, it is enough to show you how brilliant an actor he is.
The side characters of Dhruv by Hussein Dalal and Jared by William Mosely are brief and up to the mark.
Margarita With A Straw Review: Direction, Editing and Screenplay
Shonali Bose had presented us a gem with Amu and once again she tries to do the same. Margarita With A Straw is her fine work but not the best. If only, the script had been a little stronger, the film would have had much more appeal. The film is kept crisp with 100 minutes yet, the second half of the film seems stretched and low on the content value. Bose tries to pack up an emotional climax but it becomes a little too heavy.
The music has been placed well and blends in the story. In a surprise of sorts, the censor board does not play villain and the lesbian love of Laila and Khanum gets no cuts. Overall a significant charm drives around the film thanks to the characters. With a tear-jerking end, the film promises a heart-melting story.
Margarita With A Straw Review: The Last Word
Margarita With A Straw is purely an emotional, slice of life film that will draw you with its simplicity. This is Kalki Koechlin’s best performance, watch it for her. I am going with a 3/5 for the film.
Margarita With A Straw Trailer
Margarita With A Straw releases on 17th April, 2015.
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