Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Repudiating Disabilities: Making Whoopees of ‘Unimpaired Selves’ in Margarita with a Straw

Reviews, Vol I, Issue IV

The trials and tribulations of life entail us to counter them bravely. But do we emerge a champ every time confronting both the simple and arduous deals of our day to day lives. Sometimes we succumb outrightly; at other times we knock ourselves out completely but fall just a little short of hitting the bull’s eye. Few other times, we win in cracking the code and registering a brilliant triumph. Truly, life is a mixed bag, there are moments when we are laid down by our disabilities which may not be real but chimerical ones etched deeply on our mind’s roster; disabilities as they say are in the mind only.

We all act incompetent many a time but being human we tend to hide our shortcomings under the garb of formidable situations and ill-starred times. Still, are we sensitive enough to treat at an equal footing, the ones with disabilities writ well on their bodies- the ones whom the world favours with the tag of ‘differently abled,’ and feels relieved at having practised a deemed altruistic deed by re-christening them so. The lesser known reality is that they are not at variance from the able-bodied ones in their dreams and desires; and are equally entitled to comply with their longings and inclinations.

The movie, Margarita with a Straw (2015) contemplates on the leitmotif of ‘Unimpaired Selves’ implicit in the not so able-bodied ones, manifested through the character of vivacious Laila, the protagonist of the movie. The charming and creative nonconformist Laila deconstructs all radical notions of a young girl with cerebral palsy. Though wheelchair bound, she otherwise is just like any other exuberant teenage girl who does not allow any physical impediments to come in the way of her adventurous student lifestyle. Laila does not permit her physical disability to meddle with her love life.

The movie seeks inspiration from the book, One Little Finger (2011) a memoir of a leading advocate of disability rights, Malini Chib who is herself inflicted with cerebral palsy. The   movie as well as the book on which it is based calls for the exigency of a receptive and inclusive world which cherishes and reinforces the rights of the ‘differently abled’ to live fulfilled and wholesome lives. Malini Chib takes a dig at the contradictory standards of society in this regard:  “It is crazy but society on one hand thinks that disabled people should lead normal lives, but when it comes to the crunch of having an intimate relationship with a person who is disabled, they get scared and pretend that the problem is not theirs.” And she is quite genuine in her surmise that being both disabled and a woman is a ‘double disadvantage.’

Both Malini Chib and Laila Kapoor cruise past many such yardsticks, transgress from the outmoded traditions and trespass the antiquated social norms at every rung to lead ‘no strings attached’ unconditional lives. In defiance of her sickness and physical limitations, Malini Chib indulges in quite a lot of globe-trotting, and pleasantly traverses the boundaries between nation-states both for tourist amusements and academic pursuits. The cathartic endowment for heartbroken Laila too (on being spurned by the lead singer of her band) heralds in the guise of a full scholarship from New York University for a Creative Writing Program. The expanse and plenitude of the Big Apple sets the stage for Laila to discover love in an exceptional way.

Margarita with a Straw is not a conventional art house drab movie with spotlight on various predicaments of disability. It is a coming of age movie that gets past the disabilities and takes a flyer of treating people with disabilities as normal. It hinges on the sexuality of differently- abled people and insinuates without getting preachy: to treat as normal the libidinous and emotional urges of the differently-abled. The film manages to audaciously venture into the forbidden spaces of bisexuality too.

On a buoyant, howbeit a defining note, the title of the movie rehearses another tip on equality by suggesting that the physical incapacities of people need not disavow them from the extravagance of raising a toast to celebrate and; exhilarate themselves by sipping on margarita, what if with a straw. Summing-up in words of Shonali Bose, the director of the movie: “The film deeply talks about passing the prejudice and making a parallel line for equality. Let’s move ahead, and look at these people as humans.”

- Reviewed by Manjinder Kaur Wratch 
Kaur is a recipient of Maulana Azad National Fellowship and a researcher working for her doctoral degree on Partition literature. She has made many presentations at various national and international conferences and has also contributed research papers for many journals-national as well as international. Earlier she has served as Faculty English Language and Literature in various leading institutes of the country. For her M.Phil dissertation she worked on the translated in English works of the legendary Punjabi and Hindi author, Amrita Pritam. Her recent stopover being reviewing literary works and penning homilies on the arty-crafty realm of ‘substance cinema.’              

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