Margarita, with a straw

Before you read my views on the film, I feel that you should know where they are coming from. I have always been slightly uncomfortable in the presence of people with disabilities or special abilities. And this frankly has got nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. I know in my mind that the last thing these people need is pity or sympathy but my heart is somehow pre-programmed to feel bad. So, in this constant tussle between my rational mind and an emotional heart, my behaviour becomes very awkward. I don’t know which words to use while talking; is ‘differently-abled’ still an acceptable term or have the pseudo-empathizing intellectuals come up with a new term? I don’t know if my look will be misconstrued as gawking? Will a gaze that lasts a second more or less make them more or less conscious of themselves? Does this make me a bad person? I genuinely don’t know. Does this make me less of a good person? Perhaps. And so with these behavioural disabilities of my own, I entered the screening hall to watch Margarita, with a straw.

I won’t lie. There were some aspects of the movie which were difficult for me to watch. There were quite a few scenes in the film where I genuinely (and quite apologetically) felt bad for Laila Kapoor, a young woman with cerebral palsy (portrayed wonderfully by Kalki Koechlin). My heart (and in one particular scene, also my eyes) brimmed up for Aai, Laila’s strong and supportive mother (brought to life by Revathi, like.a.boss). I came out of the hall, disturbed. I didn’t even feel like discussing the film with my wife; my patient co-passenger in all my cinematic excursions – good and bad. I just came home and slept.

When I woke up today morning and thought about the film, I didn’t remember the story of a girl with cerebral palsy. I remembered a scene where a girl feels disgusted with herself because she has to depend on people for seemingly simple everyday activities; I remembered a scene where a girl strangles and buries her emotions inside her because they are not reciprocated by the guy she is attracted to; I remembered a scene where a helpless mother looks on quietly as her daughter talks about dreams which she believes, will never come true; I remembered a scene where a person tells the girl that she is genuinely beautiful and she laughs it off incredulously because she believes otherwise; I remembered a scene where a girl is coming of age and is truly confused about where her passions lie; I remembered a poignant scene where a mother removes the façade she wears all day and comes face to face with a sad reality in her life, how she breaks down and how her cheeks redden up within moments. I didn’t remember the motor neuron disability. I didn’t remember the visual impairment. I didn’t remember the cancer. I just remembered the people and their stories. Stories that are universal to us.

This, I feel, is the true beauty of this film. Here is a film that finally portrays people with disabilities without painting them with broad strokes of pity. It portrays them the way they see themselves – as humans. Humans capable of falling in love, capable of having a libido, and capable of not feeling sorry for themselves. And just for that, Margarita, with a straw is worth a watch. Director Shonali Bose, I thank you for this film. I may not be able to watch this film again (in the same way that I’m not able to watch Ek Duuje Ke Liye and Sadma), but I’ll always carry it in my heart.

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