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Film / Margarita with a Straw

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Margarita with a Straw is a 2014 romance written and directed by Shonali Bose, and starring Kalki Koechlin, Revathi, Sayani Gupta, and William Moseley.

Laila is a young Indian woman in Delhi with cerebral palsy. While she's going to Delhi University, she is close friends with Dhruv, who like her uses a wheelchair. She enjoys composing music and writing, though Laila is also interested in having a relationship with someone. Falling for the lead signer of a band she composes for, Laila is heartbroken when he gently rejects her. She decides to attend New York University in the US on a scholarship, with her mother coming along to help her. When there, she's surprised to find herself falling for a Pakistani-Bangladeshi woman named Khanum, who is blind. However, as the pair enter a relationship, Laila knows that her parents will not ever approve of this...


  • Bittersweet Ending: Laila loses Khanum because of her cheating, and her mother from cancer, and is forced to return to India, as her father was never thrilled with the idea of her studying abroad to begin with. However, she reconciled before this with her mother, and is shown happily in the countryside at the end.
  • Closet Key: Khanum causes Laila to start questioning her sexuality. After consulting with some books, she decides that she's bisexual.
  • Coming-Out Story: Laila realizes she's bisexual after falling in love with Khanum, and says she is to her mother. Her mother is unhappy with this initially, but they reconcile. Khanum, on the other hand, related that her parents were violently hostile to her being a lesbian, with her now being estranged from them.
  • Culture Clash: Laila at first thinks Jared is in a relationship with a woman he pecks on the cheek. He explains they're just friends, which threw her because Indians don't kiss friends.
  • Dramatization: Director Shonali Bose based the plot on her cousin Malini Chib's life (who is now a writer and disability rights activist) after having a conversation with her about wanting a normal sex life.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Laila can't help but look when Khanum is undressing beside her in the locker room before they swim, the first real indication we get that she's attracted to women.
  • Hollywood Genetics: Laila is played by an ethnic French actress born in India with a skin color much lighter than the actors playing her parents and brother, along with their features being very distinct. Therefore they don't look related at all to her.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Laila dislikes not so much her disability but being treated differently, and she wishes people would just act like everyone else with her. Those that do are whom she's most happy with. However, she's willing to use it once, as her professor offers an assistant to help her write which she accepts after seeing he's very handsome.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Notably averted in the film, where Laila's struggles are much the same as any foreign college student away from home, just with cerebral palsy added to complicate things. When at a music competition her band is given the top prize over Laila being disabled and the judge tries to hold her up this way, she's disgusted, and flips the woman off.
  • Like Goes with Like: Laila and Khanum are both disabled women from South Asia. It turns out they also have a mutual attraction (however this was a surprise for Laila), starting a relationship.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Khanum is a feminine woman who's revealed to be a lesbian.
  • Masturbation Means Sexual Frustration: Laila has quite a lot of sexual frustration as a result of being confined to a wheelchair, and thus engages in the occasional self-service.
  • Never Trust a Title: The title is just a drink order Laila made at one point. It has nothing to do with the plot overall.
  • Platonic Kissing: Jared gives Laila a kiss on the cheek to demonstrate how casual it is for Westerners. Laila is displeased by this, as she actually has a crush on Jared and doesn't like the idea of such casual affection.
  • Police Brutality: Laila meets Khanum while at a protest over the death of a black man who NYPD officers shot which is alleged to result from this. The protest then shows examples itself as it gets unruly and the police heavy-handed. Laila mentions the Delhi Police where she's from are also like this.
  • Queer Romance: Laila, an Indian college student with cerebral palsy, goes to New York City and falls in love with Khanum, a Pakistani-Bangladeshi young woman who is blind.
  • Their First Time: Laila initially has sex with Khanum, in what's clearly her first time overall. In a second example, she has sex with Jared as her first time with a man.
  • Title Drop: While in a bar, Laila decides on a "margarita... with a straw" as her drink.
  • Token Minority Couple: Laila and Khanum, who are both disabled queer women of South Asian ancestry, begin a relationship. It's justified as they bond, in part, precisely because of their shared traits.