Margarita with a straw opens up with Revathy driving a Matador on the streets of Delhi with her husband sitting beside her. Her daughter Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is confined to a wheel chair because of cerebral palsy and is bisexual. Shonali Bose gives us two women who have been unheard and unseen of in our Indian films.
The film through its protagonist Laila talks about the sexual desires of the disabled (I hate the word differently-abled). Like everyone else, they also have feelings and it is actually quite “normal” that they desire someone. So, Laila has a crush on one of the boys in her college, she watches porn, openly lusts and also masturbates. She is a free-spirited girl who has not let her condition define her. She is an uninhibited soul who shows middle finger to a judge in a music competition because she awarded Laila due to the sympathy factor. The film effortlessly talks about Laila’s journey of self-discovery, her endeavour to come to terms with her bisexuality and her angst in ‘coming out’ to her mother. Shonali Bose is unafraid of showing sex between Laila and Khanum (Superb Sayani Gupta) & she does it beautifully without any titillation.
However, the heart of Margarita with a Straw is the relationship which Laila shares with her Aai (Revathy). Aai’s relationship is filled with warmth, love and understanding. She teaches Laila music, bathes her, combs her hair, helps her put on the clothes, approves her decision to go abroad and study even though her husband opposes and like every mother she is frustrated when she finds out her daughter watches porn and is bisexual. Revathy is absolutely brilliant and spontaneous in her role that we all can see our mother in her.
Director Shonali Bose lost her son few years back and she has often talked about it on her Facebook page and one can feel the personal loss in the film when Laila loses her mother. The death of Aai is one of the most poignant and heart warming scenes which I have seen in a film of late. Watch out for the scene when Laila sits next to her Aai’s dead body with her poem playing in the background. I sobbed, I cried and I howled.
As the film ended, I wasn’t feeling pity or sympathetic for Laila and that is exactly what Shonali Bose wanted from us. She doesn’t create a martyr out of Laila. She is like one of us with flaws. Kalki Koechlin literally breathes the character of Laila. From movements to speech; she gets it all correct. This is undoubtedly her best performance till date and probably the strongest by any female actor in recent times. There are very few film which have heart at the right place; this is definitely one of those. Dear Shonali Bose, take a bow!