The 15th New York Indian Film Festival opened at the iconic Paris Theater this year. The lineup of Indian and international celebrities was amazing. From celebrated Indian filmmakers like Vishal Bharadwaj, Hansal Mehta, Shonali Bose, Dev Benegal amongst many; to famous actors like Kalki Koechlin, Mohan Agashe amongst many others; the red carpet was beaming with excellent talent and glamor.
Opening night of the Indian Film Festival at the Paris theater in Midtown began with history in the making. The feature for the night was Margarita With A Straw. It set a new standard for Indian cinema, and brought a seldom heard voice to world cinema; giving us a glimpse of an intimate portrait of love, sex and disability. The story is about Laila (Kalki Koechelin) an outgoing wheelchair bound teenager with cerebral palsy who is absolutely determined to have a normal life despite her challenges, and ends up on embarking on a journey of self-discovery and sexual awakening as she moves from India to New York City to attend NYU. Her growth cause friction in her family, and as secretes begin to spill she learns she’s not the only one in her family that’s struggling.
Simply put it was an actor’s film; it could have not been achieved without the performance of a lifetime by actress Kalki Koechelin. While the themes are universal, the experience is nothing but, yet the film is completely relatable because of the nature of love. The awkwardness, shyness, rejections; it reminds us, we are all just human after all. The same urges, needs, wants, desires, confusions and fears are what guide us all despite physical appearances. Don’t be surprised if you’re moved and brought to tears by this wonderful film that became a vessel to explore the depths of the writer/director Shonali Bose’s own experiences in love and loss. It’s what gives it a certain genuine charm that would have otherwise been missing.
The screening was followed by Q&A with the director & cast of the film. Shonali shared her passion about this subject and her relation to this subject through her own family member who lived with cerebral palsy, which inspired her to make this movie. Kalki talked about the process as an actor to prepare for such a role, where she not only did deep research on the subject but practiced being Laila for over 6 months, before she got in front of the camera. Shonali also shared her struggle to get the movie through Indian censors, asking for over 10 cuts, until she went to review committee which let it pass with only 1 cut and an “A” certificate. The movie has been a sleeper hit doing great business in India and wide recognition worldwide.
To learn more about New York Indian Film Festival 2015, check links below: