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GIFFONI EXPERIENCE 2015 - 17.26 July

Sections & Films


Category: Edition 2015

Laila is a spunky 19-year-old girl from a middle-class Delhi family. She was born with cerebral palsy. Her speech is garbled and she sits in a wheelchair. As a result of her efforts, Laila goes to college in the prestigious Delhi University. Laila is very close to her mother, Shubhangini, who enables her to continue her education at New York University. Always curious about sexuality, Laila undergoes a journey that is beyond her dreams. She confronts her mother with her new truths about herself causing a huge conflict that rips them apart. Suddenly her world falls apart when her mother collapses in pain. Laila goes from being the cared to the carer, and the mother daughter bond is tested to the full.

Category Official Competition
Section Generator +18
Tipology Feature Film
Duration 100'
Production Year 2014
Nationality India
Directed by Shonali Bose
Screenplay Shonali Bose
Director of photography Anne Misawa
Editor Monisha Baldawa
Production Design Somenath Pakre, Prasun Chakraborthy
Costume Design Niharika Bhasin, Maria Tharakkan, Nikia Nelson
Sound Resul Pookutty, Amrit Pritam
Music Mikey McCleary
Main cast Kalki Koechlin (Laila)
Revathy (Shubhangini)
Sayani Gupta (Khanum)
William Moseley (Jared)
Hussain Dalal (Dhruv)
Tenzing Dalha (Nima)
Produced by Shonali Bose, Nilesh Maniyar, Ishan Talkies

Born 1965, Calcutta. She studied History at the Delhi University, Political Science at the Columbia University, and Directing at the UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television. Then she made two fiction short films, THE GENDARME IS HERE and UNDOCUMENTED, and a documentary feature film, LIFTING THE VEIL. In 2005 she directed her first fiction feature film, AMU, which was screened at the Berlin Film Festival and at the Toronto Film Festival. MARGARITA, WITH A STRAW is her second fiction feature film.

Director’s statement

This my second film is inspired by my cousin sister Malini who has acute cerebral palsy. That’s a condition where the part of your brain that controls your motor skills is damaged at birth. But your emotional and intellectual abilities are intact. When I was 40 and Malini was 39 – we were having a drink in a London pub. I was passing through on my way from America to India and she was getting a second Masters degree there. I said – what are we going to do for your 40th? It’s absolutely the best birthday. Her speech is usually garbled and difficult to understand. But sometimes when she is angry or excited – it comes out crystal clear. This was one of those times. She banged her fist on the table and spoke loud and clear for all the pub to hear: I just want to have sex by the time I’m 40! I grinned sheepishly around and assured her it was not what it was made out to be etc etc. But later when I was thinking about what she said, what she so passionately wanted – I realized that I had never thought about her sexuality much. Or maybe I just avoided it as I didn’t know what to do about it. This started me on my journey of MARGARITA.

“As I started exploring my fictional character and her issues – the big question that came up was one of self worth. This is a core issue that everyone faces. Whether one is disabled or not. From there it went to a place of finding deep self acceptance and self love. Looking at my own life I felt I had been constantly seeking external affirmation, love and companionship. I was talking to my 16 year old son, my first born – Ishan, about this as we ate lunch together in a restaurant one day. I said – after so many years I finally – HAVE ME. I wasn’t sure if he would understand. But he looked into my eyes and said – I totally get what you mean. He smiled gently and confidently. I feel I have myself. And I could see it in his eyes. And I was so proud that he did. I laughed and said – well it took me over 40 years to discover what you already have. You’re so lucky. Three months after that lunch – my son died. In a horrible accident caused by a malfunctioning electric razor. At his funeral – while friends and family from all over the world sobbed around me – I felt an intense peace within me. I felt my son’s loving arms and presence entwined around me – giving me enormous strength. With a blinding flash of insight in that moment as I cremated him – I saw and understood and was able to accept his passing from this earth.

For a few months, MARGARITA obviously took a back seat as I dealt with my huge changed life circumstances and particularly the care of my younger son. Then, 4 months later, on Ishan’s 17th birthday, I celebrated this special occasion with as much joy as I would if he were alive. Because this was the day he entered my life. And nothing could change that. That night I was able to sit down and start writing the first draft of MARGARITA, WITH A STRAW.

“When life hands you lemons you can be bitter and sour or you can make a yummy Margarita with them and raise a toast! That’s the essence of MARGARITA, WITH A STRAW.

“The film became a deeply personal film – as it was written in this crucible of death, acceptance and moving on. I wrote from the very core of my being. And this film has captured – all the pain, struggle, joy, peace and acceptance of this time period in my life. Although – the events and characters are completely different”.

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