Tag Archives: Revathy

Movie Review: Margarita with a Straw (2015)

MargaritaWithAStraw3 Stars (out of 4)

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Margarita with a Straw is an insightful coming-of-age story about how a young woman with cerebral palsy explores her sexuality.

The focus on sex differentiates Margarita with a Straw from other stories of young people overcoming obstacles. The point of writer-director Shonali Bose’s narrative isn’t just to uplift the audience but to shine a light on an often ignored aspect of the lives of young adults with disabilities.

Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is in many ways a normal college student. She’s cheerful and outgoing. She’s interested in pornography. She writes lyrics for a rock band. She teases her best buddy, Dhruv (Hussain Dalal), for leering at women.

But Laila’s cerebral palsy distances her from her friends without disabilities. Her wheelchair limits her mobility; she spends a birthday party eating cake alone in the kitchen while the rest of the band sits out on the balcony. A speech impediment hampers her ability to communicate quickly in person, so she’s more fluent chatting online.

Dhruv, who also uses a wheelchair, levels a biting criticism at Laila, charging that spending time with “normal” people won’t make her normal. She’s devastated when her confession of romantic feelings is rejected by Nima (Tenzing Dalha), the handsome singer in her rock band.

The rejection spurs Laila to seek new adventures, and she enrolls at New York University. There she meets Khanum (Sayani Gupta), a beautiful, blind international student. Khanum — a lesbian — is the first person to express sexual desire for Laila, and Laila enters into a romantic relationship with her.

As happy as Laila is at finally finding love, she’s only been interested in men to this point. Her own confused feelings are coupled with concerns about admitting the truth to her parents.

Laila’s mother (played by Revathy) is not only Laila’s caretaker, but also her confidant. But Mom fears Laila’s blossoming interest in sex, changing the subject when Laila first mentions her crush on Nima. Whether it’s a fear of her daughter growing up or a fear of Laila being hurt, Mom is not ready to accept that her daughter is a young woman. The word “bisexual” is not in her vocabulary.

Koechlin’s commitment to her role is remarkable. Her accent is impeccable, and her every movement conveys how difficult mundane tasks are for those afflicted with cerebral palsy. While I support the idea of casting actors with disabilities to play disabled characters, I suspect that a casting notice for a “performer with cerebral palsy willing to participate in sex scenes with both men and women” wouldn’t find many takers in India.

Revathy’s performance is moving, but Mom’s role in Laila’s life comes to dominate the narrative as the movie progresses. The story is about a young woman finding her own identity outside of the shadows of her parents, but the way Laila is forced to do so feels unfair. The ending scene is well-intended but a little corny.

Nevertheless, Bose’s story is an eye-opener. Just because raging hormones don’t top the list of challenges faced by young people with disabilities, it doesn’t mean they’re not an issue.

Links

  • Margarita with a Straw at Wikipedia
  • Margarita with a Straw at IMDb
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Movie Review: 2 States (2014)

2states3.5 Stars (out of 4)

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As a woman who’s lived her entire life in Illinois, I would never have expected to find a movie about the cultural differences between families from North and South India so personally relevant. But those cultural differences are only the hook in 2 States. The real story is about alcoholism and the effects it can have across multiple generations.

The majority of the problems for the characters in 2 States (based on the novel by Chetan Bhagat) stem from the warped style of communication that Krish Malhotra (Arjun Kapoor) developed in order to deal with his abusive alcoholic father, Vikram (Ronit Roy) and his martyr mother, Kavita (Amrita Singh).

Krish — a Punjabi guy from Delhi — meets and falls in love with Ananya (Alia Bhatt) — a Tamil Brahmin gal from Chennai — in graduate school. They want their parents’ approval before they get married, but an introductory meeting goes terribly wrong. Vikram doesn’t even show up, and Kavita spews slurs against South Indians. Ananya’s mother, Radha (Revathy), calls Kavita classless and drags her husband, Shiv (Shiv Kumar Subramaniam) as far away as she can get.

Krish and Ananya persist in trying to win their parents’ approval, but their efforts are hampered by Krish’s evasiveness and conflict avoidance. Because he knows it will upset his mother, Krish doesn’t tell her in advance that Ananya is coming to visit, making Kavita even angrier. Krish also doesn’t tell Ananya the truth about his troubled relationship with his father until Ananya fruitlessly tries to make small talk with him.

I’m a couple of generations removed from the alcohol abuse on both sides of my family, but its effects still linger in the way we all communicate. Listening to Krish’s family evade, pacify, generalize, and blow up over little things felt familiar.

The characters feel so authentic because they are portrayed as damaged human beings, not monsters. Even in Vikram’s worst moments, Roy gives him an air of fragility. Singh plays Kavita as a woman whose hurtful words come from a place of fear.

Kapoor infuses Krish with an air of desperation. He’s as desperate not to lose Ananya as he is not to upset his mother. Part of his character development is choosing which he fears most. Krish is a relatable alternative to the typical cocksure, big-man-on-campus type of Bollywood hero.

Bhatt is terrific as Ananya: a woman with much more confidence than Krish, despite having challenging parents of her own. Revathy and Subramaniam find the right balance, making their characters chilly but not stony. At least with them, Krish knows he stands a chance.

Certain aspects make 2 States a good starter Bollywood film, not least of which are the well-written, well-acted characters. There aren’t an overwhelming number of songs, but those that exist are placed appropriately. The biggest song-and-dance number — “Locha-E-Ulfat” — is a kind of dream sequence when Krish is in the first throes of love. It features a cool single-take shot in which the camera weaves around, following Krish as he dances through the library stacks. (Watch the video of “Locha-E-Ulfat” here.)

Where the movie loses a lot of non-Indian viewers — especially those new to Bollywood — is in its jokes and stereotypes about North and South India. Some jabs are explained, but jokes about regional food and drink preferences are glossed over. I had to turn to Wikipedia to learn that “Madrasi” — the term Kavita uses to describe Ananya and her family — is an ethnic slur. Kavita also makes many, many cringe-worthy comments about the differences in skin tone between North and South Indians.

Nevertheless, the point is sufficiently made: the two families hate each other. It’s up to Krish to overcome his fear of conflict to win the woman he loves.

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