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Kalki Koechlin Writes Column About Disability & Sexuality

  • JWB Post
  •  April 3, 2015


Have you seen Kalki starrer movie ‘Margarita, with a Straw’ yet? The heart-wrenching movie shows Kalki as a cerebral palsy patient exploring her sexuality. Kalki is an excellent write apart from being a brilliant artist. About the movie, she has jot down her feelings that she went through while filming ‘Margarita..’. Have a look –

Margarita, with a Straw (MWAS) is neither about cerebral palsy nor is it about bisexuality. It is about a teenager, who like most teenagers, wants to be loved and desired, is excited about kissing and worried about losing her virginity, and oh yes, she happens to be in a wheelchair and yes she happens to fall in love with another girl. The reason I say this is because we all have a tendency to take subjects like disability and sexuality very seriously, we tend to be intimidated by these subjects because they are rarely explored in films, and rarely discussed openly in public. MWAS, on the other hand, just goes all out wearing its heart on its sleeve about what it’s like to be young, awkward, passionate, hormonal and human.

During preparation for this film, I spent a lot of time with someone who had cerebral palsy. My director’s cousin Malini Chib. Now, Malini is a grown woman in a wheelchair who drinks wine from a kiddy plastic cup with a lid and a straw. It is priceless to see her take this cup out of her grown up bag and ask the waiter for a glass of wine, or a martini, or yes, a margarita. As he pours the alcohol in her cup and closes the lid she gets out a nice brightly coloured straw and sticks it in the cup and sips to her heart’s content. People in wheelchairs get drunk, people in wheelchairs smoke, party, wear mini-skirts, people in wheelchairs have sex. Two years ago I would have found this surprising, a year ago when I met Malini I found this fascinating and today I realise that it’s normal.

If this is the journey I have gone through I really can’t imagine how many more people out there are just not aware or not exposed to certain aspects of very ordinary life. My director Shonali Bose wrote this film, I didn’t. So I cannot be the one telling you about this story, I also cannot go on talking about my own film being wonderful because it feels biased and indulgent. But I can say that it refuses to be labelled and therein lies its beauty.

In a world where we confront issues only when they become “issues”, not when they take place quietly in the privacy of our homes but when they start making headlines, when section 377 was reversed, when someone is raped in a horrific way, or discriminated and shamed publicly, that is when we start paying attention to human rights, but in our daily life we are often cruel and insensitive to the very same issues we uphold in public.

I’ve seen, for instance, men harp on about women’s freedom, women’s rights and then at that very moment, have their lunch served to them by their submissive wives. In such a world, it is really refreshing to find a script that focuses on the little details of life, with the “issues” of sexuality or acceptance or disability being addressed in the most quotidian manner, the way they really would in life, without focusing on a dramatic “headline” to thrust the issue on society. In MWAS, Laila’s disability is ordinary, it is something her family and friends are used to, and so it disappears and we start focusing on the person behind it. After that it’s like any other coming-of-age film.

“An ordinary person discovering that life is extraordinary”. I guess that would be the one liner if we had to have one. That would be our headline, if one absolutely insisted on one.

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