Margarita, With a Straw is from India. It is set partly in India, partly in New York City. The film is a mix of Hindi and English. It’s the story of a college student named Laila (Kalki Koechlin) who leaves her home and comes to New York University to study.
Margarita, With a Straw is a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. It’s full of love and joy.
Laila burns with desire and curiosity about sex. Although she’s already in college, her only sexual experiences have been the self-service variety. Her sex life is hampered by the fact that she has cerebral palsy. She likes a couple of boys. One is in a wheelchair like she is, another is a musician in a band that she writes music and lyrics for. Neither of them give her what she burns to have.
One of the most interesting moments in the film in terms of Leila’s attitude toward her disability is when her band wins a trophy in a Battle of the Bands event. The woman awarding the trophy mentions that the band won because they just had to win after the judges found out the arranger was disabled. Leila gives the woman the finger and wheels away!
She moves to New York to continue her studies. Almost immediately she meets a young woman named Khanum (Sayani Gupta). Khanum is blind. They connect quickly and soon become lovers.
One of her professors offers a “writer” for her, a cute guy named Jared (William Moseley). Laila can type and is extremely smart – she needs no help with school. But she accepts because he’s so cute.
Laila and Khanum move in together. They build a full life. They explore New York City and domestic life together.
Then one afternoon Laila has a chance at sex with Jared and she takes it.
Laila and Khanum make plans to visit Laila’s parents in India during their break. While she is home, Laila struggles to tell her mother (Revathi) about Khanum. She identifies to her mother as bisexual and explains that Khanum is her girlfriend. Her mother is upset by the news, but hardly has time to process it because she is very ill with cancer.
Laila is dealing with her mother’s reaction to her coming out, her mother’s illness, and her father’s (Kuljeet Singh) grief. So of course, this is the exact time she chooses to confess her infidelity to Khanum. Now she has Khanum’s hurt feelings of betrayal to deal with as well.
I’m still pondering the ending, but overall Margarita, With a Straw was a well-told story about an interesting and courageously unstoppable young woman.
Neither Kalki Koechlin nor Sayani Gupta are disabled. Both are brilliant in their portrayals, especially Kalki Koechlin.
Shonali Bose and Nilesh Maniyar share the directing credits on this 2014 film. It’s currently available on Netflix, YouTube, iTunes and Amazon Video.