Mumbai: Kalki Koechlin will be seen in what she calls her most demanding role yet, that of a girl affected by cerebral palsy, in director Shonali Bose’s Margarita With a Straw, which garnered critical acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival and received a standing ovation from the audience there. The movie tells the story of Laila, a Delhi Univer-sity student and an aspiring writer afflicted with cerebral palsy, who leaves India for New York University, where she falls for another girl. “When Shonali approached me with the script, I felt it was a very beautiful and bold story,” says Kalki. Talking about the sexuality of a cerebral palsy affected person, Kalki who plays a lesbian, says it’s not so much about being a homosexual as about being a challenged girl who explores her sexuality and comes to terms with it. “It’s basically a tale of self discovery, of a girl with cerebral palsy, who makes mistakes and finds an unpredictable path of her own desire.
She has a distinctive beauty and a brilliant mind trapped in a disobedient body. She falls in love easily and there’s awkwardness about her since she doesn’t know what sex is and how to interact with the one she admires,” she says. The actress worked for six months at a disability centre in Mumbai, with Shonali’s cousin Malini Chib Alur, who has cerebral palsy, to get into the skin of the character.
“It’s not easy to play a disabled person. I needed to explore that. Malini is an amazing person with a great sense of wit and I learnt a lot. I also worked with her physiotherapist and speech therapist to have a thorough understanding of cerebral palsy and her mannerisms.”
Kalki later attended a theatre workshop with Adil Hussain to perfect the nuances of her body language and speech. The film also has nudity and intense scenes between Kalki and Sayani Gupta (who plays the activist). “I did feel a little vulnerable while shooting these scenes but they’re extremely instrumental to the script and have been shot aesthetically,” adds Kalki. But does she think the film will draw the ire of some people in India when it releases in 2015, considering the judgement, via Article 377, that criminalises homosexuality? The actress replies, “The Supreme Court’s job is to uphold the right and freedom of every individual, not to decide what is culturally acceptable or not. Our film will definitely cause a huge furore, spark debates and will hopefully change people’s perspective on sensitive issues. As artistes, we need to put forth a point and end this hypocrisy. That’s what we’re here for.”