This Powerful Performance By Kalki Koechlin Is A Refreshing Look At Disability And Sexuality


Written By Veda Nadendla:

Contribution by: Aishwarya Manivannan

Here is a film showcasing the coming of age journey of a young explicable girl, with cerebral palsy, played by our very own “Girl in Yellow Boots”, Kalki Koechlin. She has done it yet again, awed and inspired the audiences with her performance, and her innocent child-like energy.

Shonali Bose’s ‘Margarita, With A Straw’ featuring Kalki Koechlin, showcases a concept which is rarely seen in cinema. It is the amazing life story of Laila who composes lyrics for an Indie band at Delhi University. Her life is full of energy and excitement; her body may be unhealthy but she hones the mind of a virtuoso. The only speed breakers in her life are the prejudices of other people; for instance, when she wins a prize at school and her professor openly admits that her disability was a contributing factor. With all such things in one ear and out the other, Laila perseveres and gets into New York University with a scholarship, embarking on a journey of discovery and revelation with her mother.

Laila’s character is based on Shonali Bose’s cousin Malini, who suffers with cerebral palsy. The movie is a dedication to Malini, inspired by a conversation that the director had with her, about the journey of a young girl seeking contentment and gratification. More so, the story is not a copy of the life of the director’s cousin, but an intense and beautiful journey that sparked from it.

Interestingly so, the film is not centred on Laila’s different ability; it merely adds to her lifestyle and her zesty character. The film takes after a young woman seeking a meaning from life, chasing her own dreams and finding her own reality. In fact, Laila’s ‘different ability’ adds to her persona a flavour of relentless perseverance and a positive attitude towards life.

In a post on Facebook, Shonali explains a scene shot in a hospital, “During one scene – an unexpected thing happened. It was a scene in a real hospital – Dharamshila Cancer Hospital (that very kindly let us shoot there). The take started- a mother child scene. Suddenly, in a few seconds, I started howling and someone had to clamp my mouth shut. I couldn’t even look at the monitor. By the time the take ended (under a minute) – I had a hold of myself and was able to call cut and go talk to the actors. Everything I shot in this hospital was from clearly etched, crystal clear unforgettable memories. This made it super easy as well as hard. And I loved every moment of this recreation.”

Laila is the offbeat super hero of the movie; having conquered her different ability, she comes to understand her orientation through a fantastic journey with a young social activist. Also a concept rarely seen in Indian cinema, Laila breaks the barriers of the “natural orientation” by falling in love with a woman. Hardly a surprise then, that the film is being lauded for its brilliance around the world. Kalki really has pushed the boundaries of her talent and has raised the bar for actors to come.

Margarita, With A Straw had its World Premier at The Toronto International Film Festival in the Contemporary World Cinema Category. Etched with excellent and heart wrenching performances and direction, the film will be a breakthrough into a new realm of Indian cinema. The film is due to be released in India next year, and until then I take the responsibility of telling as many people as I can, to watch it. This is the flavour in cinema that our country really needs. If you haven’t already seen the trailer, do it now! I’ll be there, first day first show. Join me?



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