21 April 2015

Margarita With A Straw

I’m biased to write a review of this film as such because I have known Malini Chib (the inspiration behind this film) for a long time and been her fan even before meeting her in person. She maybe the first person to broach the subject of sexual deprivation among the disabled people in India that too in the mainstream media. And, have read her autobiography One Little Finger just a few months back.

All this made me wait for this film to hit the theatres with bated breath. But, what the film has isn’t her story per se but something really over the top. Here the story about a talented teenager named Laila (Kalki Koechlin), who composes music using her laptop and writes lyrics for her college band. She even goes to the sites that people using computer in the dead of the night are doubted to visit... She is in love with the lead singer of her band while being physically intimate with another wheelchair using person. And, when that wheelchair using person tries to put some sense in her head and tells what she has done to him, she calls him a name that arouse claps from a few members of the audience. We are all for flawed characters with shades of grey, even the ones with disability, but, isn’t this stretching it too far?

Her first heartbreak is treated with subtlety, just a few tears and she crying into her mother’s (Revathy at her stoic best) bosom; “Aai, he doesn’t love me”.

After that the action shifts to New York as Laila gets admission in NYU for a creative writing course. It is here while agitating against the police atrocities towards the African-American people she bumps into Khanum (Sayani Gupta) a Paki-Bangla cross breed who becomes her girlfriend in a while. Who said a film dealing with the sexual curiosity of a disabled girl can’t be politically correct, a lesbian (or gay as Laila calls her) of Indian origin would have been a downer. The next best option was to make her a Paki or even better a Paki-Bangla cross breed.

Same sex relationships are often used to thicken the plot in the stories about disability as there are lots of things running parallel in both of them. They both are marginalised and fighting the battle to be in the mainstream of the society. This point is proven when Laila retorts “you never believed it when the people said it when I was born”, when her mother said that her relationship with Khanum wasn’t normal. It can also be used as a manipulative device to hook the urbanised or western audience like here Laila asks Khanum when did she realise she was a ‘gay’, Khanum says fourteen and goes on to describe how violently her mother reacted when she ‘came out’ to her. She goes on narrate that she was even taken to doctors and psychologists to find a cure as if her sexual orientation was a malady. In Laila says it is wonderful to know who she really is and she is happy to be with Khanum. But, at the same time it is scary too. We as viewers implicitly know why such a piece is set up in the story.

That is not all, Laila even seduces her cute classmate (or did it happen in the spur of the moment is a million dollar question) who had volunteered to help her as a writer. And, her justification to Khanum about this after a long while was “he was ready for it even after seeing me”. Whatever it means...

Unfulfilled dreams and heartbreaks are part and parcel of growing up or of life as a whole and there would trouble ahead if one develops a fiendish attitude towards the things missed. Hope Laila gets into the process of learning that soon.