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Report: Culture

What does normal mean? Margarita, with a Straw screened at French Asian film festival

Still from "Margarita, with a Straw"
Still from "Margarita, with a Straw" DR/www.cinemas-asie.com

Margarita, with a Straw is a coming-of-age film from India for all ages and abilities. In France, it screened as part of the main competition at the International Festival of Asian Cinema in Vesoul on Thursday.

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Laila has problems like all young people who would love to fall in love and love to be independent. Laila is lucky because she has a family that adores her and gives her a lot materially as well as quite a lot of freedom. Laila deals with all this while being confined to a wheelchair and physically handicapped.

Based on someone with cerebral palsy close to director Shonali Bose, the character of Laila, played by Kalki Koechlin, a young actress with a French and Indian background, demands we accept otherness as sameness in the human scheme of things.

Bose wrote and co-directed with Nilesh Maniyar. He told RFI that the film, which is located in India and the US, sets out to be universal.

“We purposely haven’t made it so Indian because it’s our intent… in our shooting, in the writing, in the casting, to avoid alienating audiences,” he said.

Dossier: Cannes Film Festival 2014

The directors waste no time in this film, hardly stopping for pause from one life-changing experience to another. We watch Laila experiment with sex - with the opposite and the same gender - , with love, with rejection, with jealousy, ambition, freedom, with death and then with life. Well, maybe that’s the pace of transition to adulthood, like flicking through the pages of a diary.

Margarita, with a Straw is above all a sensitively handled film. Perhaps it has one or two challenges too many in just 1h40 but it’s full of light and colour, some music and all sorts of everyday and less everyday disabilities which affect or afflict us all, one way or another.

It dangles a timeless question hovering in the cinema hall… "what does normal mean?"

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