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

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By Veda Nadendla:

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?

UPDATE: An earlier version of this article misrepresented the fact about the writer of the film, Shonali Bose’s son. We profusely apologize to Shonali and would like to inform our audience that the incident was grossly misreported and does not represent the facts.

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  1. Devant

    Thanx VN, for sharing this..

  2. Ashima

    dayum

  3. Sanchi

    Any idea when is this film going to be released in India?

    1. Veda Nadendla

      So far it has only released at The Toronto International Film Festival following which it releases at Busan International Film Festival in S. Korea and London Film Festival. Release dates are not out yet for audiences in India. It says 2015, let’s just hope it happens really really soon! 🙂

  4. MANU SINGH

    She is a top notch actress when it comes to pull off these kinds of roles. Even though i found Girl in yellow boots very boring, only movie of her which i liked was anurag kashyap SHAITAN. Even after being stereotyped for her particular set of acting skills, she did a nice job in YJHD and ZMND. Lets she what this new movie of her has store for us. Great writing (y)

    1. Veda Nadendla

      Thank you, Manu. 🙂 I think she also did a fantastic job in Dev D. It was a breakthrough for her. More than her film roles, her scriptwriting and her theatre impresses me immensely. I for one am really looking forward to this particular picture because she has done a role similar to one she would don on stage.

  5. Mufaddal

    While I don’t deny that kalki is a pretty good actress and I’m a fan, I’m reminded of Maysoon Zayid’s TED talk I saw again yesterday. Go check it and see how she makes a case for giving a chance to disabled people to play characters based on their situation.

  6. Nuwan Sen

    Sounds really great, and loved the trailer. I wish I’d get a chance to watch this. From the trailer itself I can tell Kalki Koechlin deserves an International award for her performance. Nice Write-up.

    1. Veda Nadendla

      Thank you I too agree with you, Kalki does deserve an award for her role. I trust that this will be released in India, so till then let’s keep our fingers crossed! 🙂

  7. Dorodi Sharma

    Just wanted to highlight a language issue here – something that was pointed out to me when I first started working in the area of disability by a person with disability: “I do not ‘suffer’ from a disability, I quite enjoy it!”. The universally accepted language is a person with cerebral palsy not “who suffers with cerebral palsy”.

    1. Veda Nadendla

      Thank you for pointing it out, I do agree. It shall be kept in mind in future articles.

    2. Paul Gilbert

      Having advocated for decades … I understand why people get caught up on language … primarily if / when the language is deliberately abusive or dismissive, etc… I follow the British social model of disability …. while (at the same time) recognizing that a disability only exists if it is manifested in some kind of impairment…. However, the ubiquitous biases / prejudices about the disabled are what keep us on the margins of society. Likewise, it is the biases / prejudices about all marginalized persons that undermine all of our progress towards creating just societies. This article & movie does advance understanding … sadly, we have such a long long way to go…

    3. Trish Morris

      I agree!

  8. Paul Gilbert

    I’m disappointed that the lead actress in Margarita, With A Straw doesn’t have CP…

    1. Veda Nadendla

      While some might construe that comment negatively, I understand what you mean. Firstly it’s a matter of great pride that the actress has been able to carry a role which is so challenging and shape shifting. Indeed it could have been a person with CP to play the role herself, maybe one day that too will happen.

    2. Trish Morris

      I agree!

  9. Trish Morris

    Enjoyed the write up and video about the movie. However, I do find the word “Suffering” to describe Laila having Celebral Palsy as very offensive. People born with celebral palsy do not suffer having it.
    Please help educate the public and your writers to understand that being born different or with a set of challenges does not mean that those with special needs or who are differently-abled are suffering

    This Powerful Performance By Kalki Koechlin Is A Refreshing Look At Disability And Sexuality
    Veda Nadendla September 15, 2014 Media and Culture, Video 14 Comments
    By Veda Nadendla:
    Laila’s character is based on Shonali Bose’s cousin Malini, who suffers with cerebral palsy

  10. Sir Deepankar Padhi

    Thats one hellova overwhelming trailer. I would agree with author here that truly this would expose the Indian film industry towards an entirely new dimension in moviemaking. Though I’m a bit skeptical of how the viewers would recieve the film for India has always shown friction towards change, either due to our narrowmindedness or due to our stereotypical mentality.
    Nonetheless, i would gladly go for the first day first show with our author here for i wouldn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to witness pure brilliance.
    Way to go Kalki!

  11. Rishabh G.

    Dear Kalki Koechlin- you are my all time favorite actor for real life stories. You’re inspiration. Please keep it up #MARGARITA – Love it.

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