How Margarita With A Straw Normalizes Discourse Between Sexuality And Disability

Disability is viewed through a similar lens in our society, through condescending attitude, refusing to view these people as individuals with their own choices and desires.

Muskan Sharma
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Disability, hindi films on same sex love
We as a society tend to dismiss anything that falls outside the realm of our constructed norm. Disabled bodies are viewed through a similar lens. Our society holds a condescending attitude towards them, refusing to view these people as individuals with their own choices and desires.  

Open discussions on sexuality have been taboo in India. In such a scenario, talking about the sexual orientations of disabled people seems impossible. However, Shonali Bose’s Margarita with a Straw, a 2014 film makes a radical move at dismantling such flawed social misconceptions and practices. 

Disabled People Have Sexual Needs Too!

The protagonist of the movie, Laila, despite her motor disability, has been depicted as a regular teenager. She is shown to have sexual needs, which are a typical result of her hormones being in a high-functioning state caused by puberty. She flirts, visits dubious websites on the internet, has a few crushes, and experiences physical attraction.

Now, people with regressive mindsets would have surely cringed in movie theatres at such blatant thwarting of their ‘normative.’ And why not! Their comfort zone was targeted,  boundaries were tested, and most importantly they were made to think. It is high time we stop getting uncomfortable when sexuality and disability are simultaneously spoken of.

Pushing Boundaries

The movie further revolutionises the narrative by introducing Khanum, a blind woman, and a social activist who is capable and independent. Laila’s relationship with her puts on screen a same-sex affair between two women with disability. Lesbian relationships, sexuality, and disabilities are all exposed to the audience in one sitting.


The message that people with disabilities too have sexual needs is conveyed in a very matter-of-fact way. Their sexual self is either not acknowledged or is constrained by societal beliefs. Such stigmatisation makes the depiction of disability and sexual explorations on-screen revolutionary.

Because of such a bold depiction of sexuality and disability, it is easy to misunderstand this movie and dismiss it on the pretence of propagating obscenity. Problematically, such dismissal stems from our society’s discomfort in discussing topics centered around sexuality, and even more disabled sexuality.

They Deserve Our Acceptance, Not Pity

While stressing the importance of recognising disabled people as sexual beings, we need to be cautious about not making them feel pitied. Everyone wants to be accepted and not sympathised with. And such is the case with disabled people. Throughout the movie, Laila is not lacking in any way, and that is how she wants to be treated, with dignity and not pity.

She has a need for peer acceptance, and to be appreciated for her skills and talents, but receiving a prize in the inter-college music festival just out of pity for her disabled body is not acceptable to her. Despite having a disabled woman as its lead, the movie does not lecture viewers on disability or romanticise or condemn it to achieve certain dramatic ends.

Instead, it shows how the protagonist lives with her impairment which neither defines nor restricts her. We need to look beyond the impaired bodies of disabled people, to identify in them the same humane spirit that we associate with ourselves. 


Margarita With A Straw

People with disabilities are sexual beings who deserve equal access and control over their sexual expression, sexuality, and meaningful relationships throughout their lives. Their assumed non-sexuality unfairly creates barriers to sexual citizenship for disabled people. 

Societal acceptance and normalisation on our part will contribute to the social, emotional, and physical well-being of these people. Laila takes disability as one of the aspects of her life and lives with that disability, her life to its full. The movie symbolically ends with her hitting a bar, while on a date with herself, and requesting the cocktail of a ‘margarita with a straw'.

We need more Lailas to emerge from the crowd. We need more people who welcome and accept them.

Views expressed are the author's own.

Muskan Sharma is a self-employed freelance content writer.


Suggested Reading: Will AI Tech Like ChatGPT Improve Inclusion For People With Communication Disability?


sexuality Disability Rights