Ask Kalki Koechlin for movies with substance, and she will give them to you channeling her Meraki. Margarita With A Straw is one of those movies that you will hold carefully in your heart even when your memory wears weak.
I first came across Margarita with a Straw (MWAS) when I was on a Kalki Koechlin movie marathon. And Laila’s love story that develops with Khanum’s is truly something.
Released in the year 2014, when India barely understood love outside of heteronomy, MWAS made headlines. The movie not only portrayed a lesbian romantic relationship but a love story between two disabled women.
Margarita With A Straw- Blurring The Periphery
MWAS is not a dominantly gay movie. The main focus of the movie is the character, Laila. Laila is a music student who aims to study in a college abroad and become a music director. She is a funny, smart, kind, and an adventurous adolescent girl who wishes to push her boundaries instead of letting them limit her. She leads an inevitably complicated life, she needs help bathing, dressing up, and traveling to places. Luckily, her family is very supportive of her and encourage her to conquer all her dreams. Her parents are mostly orthodox in their beliefs but learn as new situations arise.
Initially, Laila falls for a lead singer in a college band. She faces rejection, but soon good news flows in. And she gets accepted to a music school abroad. She begins to develop feelings for another friendly chap, Jared, who volunteers to help her out with creative writing. But eventually, the story makes way to Khanum. A fierce, young, Muslim girl who is also blind.
Laila is enamoured by Khanum. Khanum’s take on her disability is refreshing to Laila, and her dedication to activism is one of the main scenes of their “cute-meet”. But Laila is confused about her orientation especially since she had developed feelings for the boy from her previous college, and now for Jared. While being committed to Khanum, Laila’s heart still flutters for Jared. And since Jared meets Laila on a regular basis to help her with the creative writing, the both of them end up having sex.
Laila regrets it immediately. But she does not reveal her episode with Jared to Khanum.
And Then The Downfall
Margarita with a Straw is not all happy and chirpy. It will make you happy-cry, and feel one with yourself. Even though parts of it might not come off as realistic, the even amounts of ups and downs will leave you with a realistic sense of hope. Laila is just a young adolescent looking to make her way in the world. Family, travel, career, love, Laila is presented in a seemingly unbiased light.
You will relate to Laila because of how much of a struggle it takes to be her.
Focusing mainly on the relationship between Khanum and Laila, Laila sees Khanum as a source of inspiration. Someone she can learn from. There is a strange imbalance in their relationship which highlights that Laila relies on Khanum heavily. Not in actions as much as in a social manner.
None of Laila’s romantic interests are tagged. There is no name for the relationships she shares. So when it comes to identifying Laila’s sexual orientation, there is no clear cut frame. The likelihood of her being bisexual is similar to her being pansexual. But to the story or to Laila’s character, it barely makes any difference.
No Tags, No Message
There is no particular overarching message or concept that Margarita with a Straw will give you. You are free to interpret and take what you wish to. Laila’s disability is neither the focus nor a negligible part of who she is. And for a movie to represent a character who belongs to the periphery of the periphery is a long shot that might not have worked if it wasn’t for the balance of happy and sad moments.
Having said that, Laila and Khanum have very different personalities. They are not opposite and not very alike. It is not your average romantic story that will leave you weeping or warm your heart right up. Khanum is fiercely active, while Laila is incredibly passionate. They are both equally feminine and un-feminine at the same time, and what they share is pure and sincere. It is not a story of a construct or an ideal. And this makes it lesbian love more realistic and less like a rom-com.
Bollywood has dominantly presented love, even in a heterosexual set-up, as a dream come true. And only recently have we been able to observe a few changes on that front. Thus, looking at Margarita with a Straw in 2014, the movie broke every convention there is. Intentionally or unintentionally.
Even if it is not an “LGBT-centric” movie, it should be on your must-watch list because of the movie in itself. It is enough and more.
But tell us what you think of it and if you agree with us at all.