Have you seen “Margherita with a straw”?
Please go watch the film if you haven’t already. It’s a good story, very well told and manages to focus, in a world spinning with abnormality, loss, betrayal and death, on the utter universality of the human condition.
By the film's end we forget that Kalki Koechlin who plays Laila, the central lead, has cerebral palsy and can’t even speak clearly - she is just another young soul caught up and confused by life; she could be a friend, a sister, a daughter - she could be me..and that is the film's greatest triumph, for it manages to break away from the conventional drama around a very serious disease and its trappings and speaks instead about the rich and colourful emotional life of a 18 or 19 year old who just happens to be physically impaired.
I loved the little touches too - the brother reading by torchlight under the sheets and ducking when mom enters the room, the dad insisting on singing tunelessly, the comments about food on the table - the film is handled with a subtlety and deftness that bodes well for Hindi movies. Also, the way sex (usually the invisible monster) is treated is very refreshing - it’s as if LGBT sex is coming out in our movies (and not in the body of a Sunny Leone) but in regular lives; there is no labeling or shame, just a slow mulling of an idea or an alternate reality. The mother's responses, initially hilarious, also reflect how times are changing.
In the end it’s a coming of age movie and a step towards a label-free world.
Also in the news this week was the suicide of a doctor at AIIMS Delhi who killed herself because her marriage was not consummated; her husband informed her later that he was gay. Harassed for dowry and depressed by the circumstances of her life she ended it, but left a suicide note explaining why she took the drastic step. She was no a submissive doormat with no window to the world; this was a young girl with a job many aspired to, financially independent, good looking and intelligent, living in the NCR. I wonder how closed her world must have been. I wonder why mental healthcare is still not easy to access, even for a doctor. There are still so many taboos attached to seeking help or to admit, in this world of smiling selfies and happy Facebook updates, that all is not well in one's world.
We live in times when PDA is accepted and smiled at; everyone is supposed to be happy and progressing towards a brighter future. Inner demons are just not kosher. The only intensely real emotions are the ones buried past the happy facades. But a girl is dead and silenced forever just because she could not speak about the nameless fears surrounding her.
And then of course there is the matter of her husband, a man who would choose to marry a woman just to keep his homosexuality a secret. How does a society accept different sexual mores? How does one bring all the LGBT community into the mainstream and normalize them so these incidents never reoccur?
Maybe watching films like 'Margherita with a straw' with your family is a start - if nothing else it can be a conversation starter and result in interesting debates and discussions; where there’s debate there’s no veil of secrecy and shame. So go watch the movie. Let me know what you think.
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