BFI London Film Fest review: "Margarita, With a Straw"


Margarita, With a Straw

Dir. Shonale Bose. India. 2014. 100 mins.

Margarita, With a Straw
follows the story of Laila (Kalki Koechlin), a young wheelchair-bound girl from Delhi with cerebral palsy, who wins a scholarship to study in America. The film explores headstrong Laila’s coming of age and the manner in which both her disability and her burgeoning bisexuality colour her explorations of this new adult world in a warm, often playfully humorous way.

“Being friends with normal people won’t make you normal!” spits Laila’s best friend Dhruv (Hussain Duval), who is also a wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy sufferer, as she shuns his advances to pursue her crush on her able-bodied bandmate Nima (Tenzing Dalal). When their band – for which Laila writes lyrics – wins a competition and the judge openly admits it’s because she’s in a wheelchair, she uses the opportunity of being comforted by Nima to fall into his arms… which doesn’t have the result she intended.
Her low spirits are soon buoyed by the news that she’s been accepted to study creative writing at New York University, however. She arrives accompanied by her fussing, traditional mother (Revathy, AKA Asha Kutty) who has come along to help her settle in. But it isn’t long before Laila has snuck off to find some illicit diversion, heading for the middle of a violent anti-government demo… In a haze of teargas she manages to help a blind protester, Khanum (Sayani Gupta), to safety. The two become firm friends.
MARGARITA WITH A STRAW 1One night Khanum takes the previously sheltered Laila to a bar, where she tastes her first ever alcoholic drink – the “Margarita, with a straw” of the title. Later that night, Laila discovers another way she isn’t “normal”, in Khanum’s tender embraces…

Laila’s coming out process is fraught with difficulty. The viewer can’t help but find it poignantly hilarious to see her mother confuse the word “bi” with the word “bai” – the Hindu word for a female maid servant – and launch into a diatribe about lazy men in response. When the real message finally gets through, it’s not a popular one and the ensuing drama is only exacerbated by internal dramas within Laila and Khanum’s relationship. That is, until a real drama comes along to put everything in perspective…

Margarita, With a Straw is showing as part of the BFI Film Festival:

  • Fri Oct 17, 2014 – 6:00 pm, Vue West End Cinema, Screen 5
  • Sat Oct 18, 2014 – 1:00 pm, Vue Cinema Islington, Screen 1


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Charlotte Dingle

Charlotte 'Lottie' Dingle is Biscuit's founding editor. When she's not running freelancing for a diverse bunch of clients ranging from Cosmo to Occupy, she enjoys teaching life drawing, discussing life/the universe/everything with her beloved (but smelly) 22-year-old cat, writing flash fiction for her MA course, getting pretentious tattoos, listening to folk music, creating surrealist art, trying to change the world and drinking red wine. Oh, and My Little Pony. Don't forget My Little Pony. Her favourite biscuits are cream crackers (do they count as biscuits?).

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