A taste of margarita

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taste_margaritaShonali Bose’s Margarita With A Straw promises a lot with its trailers and promos, but the film falls into a trap of ambiguity set up by the flaws in its own script.

The Hindi film industry’s fixation with exploring the lives of the differently-abled has been palpable over the last decade. Indian filmmakers have attempted to understand the psyche behind the physical and mental disabilities with much enthusiasm: 15th Park Avenue (2005); Black (2005); Taare Zameen Par (2007); Paa (2009); My Name is Khan (2010); Guzaarish (2010) and Barfi (2013) to name a few. Most of these films, however, had one commonality:They were all tear-jerking dramas. And Margarita With A Straw is the latest film to join the bandwagon.

Laila (Kalki Koechlin), besides being wheelchair bound due to cerebral palsy (a neurological disorder), is also a troubled teenager dealing (like most other teenagers) with her sexuality, identity and, more so in her case, with her physical differences from the rest. Laila needs her mother’s (Revathi) help to carry out basic day-to-day functions such as taking a shower and getting dressed. No wonder she shares a rather close bond with her aai (mother).

While narrating the story of a character with cerebral palsy might itself seem like a big challenge, the auteur, Shonali Bose, doesn’t shy away from adding more complicated layers to her script. A huge chunk of her film focusses on bisexuality and lesbianism — and, unfortunately, it ends up completely sidelining Laila’s medical condition.

In the midst of this clash of interest, the film seems to lose out on a lot. There is a sense of rush, despite the director and editor’s attempts to poignantly observe minute details almost throughout the film. It feels as though the director set out to narrate one story and along the way got distracted into a different narration altogether.

Kalki has proved her merit as an actress many times before and, with her latest venture, she seals her position as one of Bollywood’s best performers capable of essaying intricate characters with unmatched honesty. As Laila, Kalki is endearing, particularly because the script doesn’t limit her to be yet another poor little girl.

While Margarita With A Straw has many heart-warming moments that make you feel for Laila, the film is so stubbornly determined to treat its central character as ‘normal’ that it almost seems like an injustice to her and others like her. It is as if the auteur has suddenly turned a puppet out of Laila and is making her move according to the expectations of an audience conditioned by commercial Hindi cinema for too long.

While the first half of the film is rather taut, the second half seems vaguely loose with nothing to support and take the story forward. Margarita With A Straw could have been one of those rare sensitive films that explore disability through unbiasedobservation from a distance, but it ends up being yet another film that prods its audience to ‘feel’ for its central character.

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