Dir: Shonali Bose. India. 2014. 100mins
The rather intriguing and enjoyable Margarita, With A Straw may appear to be ticking just about every right-on box possible – an Indian woman with cerebral palsy realises her bisexuality when she falls for a blind girl – but in truth this indie Indian film is a genial affair that looks like being a hit on the festival circuit and could well intrigue savvy niche distributors.
Though it lurches into melodrama at times and does feel an unusual blend of Indian and Western style cinema, it also tackles a subject matter that could have been worthy and rather preachy with real grace.
The second film from talented director Shonali Bose (following on from 2005’s Amu), the film received the NETPAC award after its Toronto world premiere and features impressive lead performances from Kalki Koechlin and Sayani Gupta in the lead roles.
Attractive wheelchair-bound Delhi University student Laila (Koechlin) is a popular at college and provides lyrics for a student band of able-bodied students. She falls for a bandmate (Tenzin Dalha), but he rejects her. Good news comes in the form of news that she has a full scholarship to NYU, though she is hampered a bit when her mother comes along to help her settle in.
At an Occupy demonstration, she makes friends with Khanum (Sayani Gupta from Tasher Desh) a blind half-Pakistani, half-Bangladeshi girl with the pair becoming lovers (handled with taste rather than raw sexuality), though Laila still finds herself attracted to men. Laila’s mother invites them both to spend the winter holiday in Delhi with the family, where Laila plucks up the courage to reveal what their relationship is really about.
Though it lurches into melodrama at times and does feel an unusual blend of Indian and Western style cinema, it also tackles a subject matter that could have been worthy and rather preachy with real grace, with Bose keepig it charmingly breezy and Koechlin especially good in a role that is complex on many levels. A star in her home territory, her casting will guarantee attention (along with the controversial subject matter), though this should be as much for the enjoyable nature of the film as much as the edgier content.
Production companies: Ishan Talkies, Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Jakhotia Group, ADAPT
International sales: WIDE Management, www.widemanagement.com
Producers: Shonali Bose, Nilesh Maniyar
Screenplay: Shonali Bose, Nilesh Maniyar
Cinematography: Anne Misawa
Editor: Monisha Baldawa
Production designers: Somenath Pakre, Prasun Chakraborthy
Music: Mikey McCleary, Prasoon Joshi
Main cast: Kalki Koechlin, Revathy, Sayani Gupta, William Moseley, Hussain Dalal, Tenzin Dalha, Kuljeet Singh, Malhar Khushu