Raising a toast to life... with a Margarita

Beena Parmar Mumbai | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on April 22, 2015

Brave new film addresses aspirations of the differently-abled with dignity, grace

Writer-director Shonali Bose’s first film Amu explored the attacks on Sikhs in the Delhi riots of 1984. This time around, with her new film Margarita, With a Straw, she takes up the formidable task of depicting the coming-of-age of a young urban girl with a disability.

Bose’s cousin Malini, a woman with cerebral palsy was the real-life inspiration behind Laila, the wheelchair-bound college-going protagonist of the film, essayed by Kalki Koechlin.

But Laila isn’t afraid of being amongst “abled” people who are not like her. She is the pivot of her family who makes them dance together, writes lyrics for her college band and refuses to accept awards given to her just because she is “disabled.”

Method to the madness

Speaking at a screening in Mumbai before the official launch of the film, Koechlin revealed how the movie was an education for her: “I realised the invisibility towards the disabled in Delhi vis-à-vis in New York, where even roads are well-suited to be navigated in a wheelchair.”

“Being Laila became my muscle memory. I made it into a habit to be Laila, from daily activities like cooking, to working on computer or even going out...People stared at me, some would pity me and even infantilise me,” she recalled.

Koechlin had confined herself in a wheel-chair for two months, carrying out her daily chores like Malini, the real-life person on whom Laila is modelled.

But like Malini once said, as Koechlin stood up from the wheelchair to head home: “That’s the difference at the end of the day – ‘you’ can leave that wheelchair.”

Bose recalled how she tore up the script that she’d been working on for a year and re-wrote it following her son’s birthday, four months after his death. “That’s why it came out honestly, with not just pain, but courage and beauty.”

Liberating portrayal

Margarita, With a Straw is speaks of challenges with optimism rather than despair.

And soaking it all in were the audience who sat spellbound right through the movie, credits and interaction with the cast and crew of the film.

The film traces Laila’s fiercely independent journey, seen in scenes when she gets angry with her mother for invading her privacy, on finding her surfing porn or when she confesses to her girlfriend that she had been intimate with a man in her class.

Keeping it real

The film also handles intimacy without romantic illusions, in the sense it shows how ‘normal’ desire is, even if a person is disabled. So if life gives you lemons, go ahead and make some Margaritas! At least that’s what the film seems to say - find a way to live one’s life as it comes.

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Published on April 22, 2015
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