“Meri maa ek aadat hai” is a line that will follow you all the way out of the auditorium after watching Shonali Bose’s gem of a film called ‘Margarita with a straw’. Each person among the audience was either empathizing with the pain that Laila (Played to perfection by Kalki Koechlin) was enduring in that scene in the climax or perhaps realizing their own tendency of taking their mother for granted, like Prasoon Joshi aptly puts ‘Meri maa ek aadat hai’.
While the scene was playing on silver screen, it was quite uncomfortable to be amidst moist-eyed men and sobbing women, making one realize the power of brilliant cinema or should I say triumph of director Shonali Bose? – Because right from the first frame to closing credits, the director seems to have perfected the art of restraint. There’s not a single moment where the screenplay prods you to feel sorry for Laila, a young girl with Cerebral Palsy, yet your heart goes out for this girl yearning for love and physical intimacy.
Kalki Koechlin approaches her role with confidence and conviction of a pro. In fact, she’s so good you won’t remember she’s a ‘normal girl’ speaking in a ‘normal voice’ in real world. She essays her role in a way that you clearly understand what’s going on inside her mind without the need of any voiceover to underline each action. The awkwardness of rejection, the desperation of being with someone, the grieving of someone’s loss, those online chats exuding loneliness were never so heart-rending in our films.
The other actor whom you couldn’t help feeling in awe with is Revathy. She plays Laila’s mother with a face brimming with love, warmth and care. There’s a scene where Laila reveals that she likes a guy and Revathi conveys her reaction without delivering a single line. An expression articulates it all. You know she’s thinking, ‘How can you fall for a guy? Who will choose you as his partner?’ Now that’s indeed stuff great actors are made of and this veteran proves it with every film, be it Dhoop, Nishabd, Ab Tak Chappan or the recent 2 States.
Sayani Gupta plays Khanum, a blind girl with beautiful eyes. A young girl born to Bangladeshi and Pakistani parents, Khanum eventually becomes Laila’s girlfriend. Sayani Gupta, with her nuanced performance, wins your heart hands down, especially with her diction. The character of Khanum wasn’t an easy one – being disabled and empowered in the same breath. There’s a confrontation scene between her and Kalki’s character on a terrace. Sayani gets up and walks away. Her anger echoes in the fast-moving cane and body language, which is awe-inspiringly effortless.
Cinematographer Anne Misawa shoots the film beautifully and captures the intimate scenes from a woman’s perspective, especially the lesbian sex scene. The intimacy between Khanum and Laila couldn’t have been established any other way except the way they explore each other’s body. The songs by Mickey McCleary blend with the narrative seamlessly, though you might find yourself expecting a longer version of ‘Foreign Balamwa’.
To sum it up, ‘Margarita, with a straw’ is easily one of the best films you’re going to watch this year. It might remind you of ‘Queen’ and ‘The fault in our stars’. Well, it’s surely an upgraded version of ‘Queen’ and India’s answer to ‘The fault in our star’s. Director Shonali Bose, take a bow.