Bisexual director Shonali Bose on her revolutionary queer film “Margarita, with a Straw”


AE: What about the straight sex scene? Were people comfortable with that?

SB: I don’t feel I got anyone resisting that other than the censor board. So in India, we have to cross the censor board before a film can be released. We thought both scenes would be completely cut. And in the initial round, they both were cut. But then when we appealed, interestingly they didn’t touch the gay scene, but with the heterosexual scene they wanted, and they used a crude word–they said “the humping.” “Can you make the humping scene 50 percent?” And I feel they felt uncomfortable and they felt Indian audiences would think it’s too graphic for them.

The censor board made the distinction. I never came across, and I talked with so many audiences, so many people–nobody ever raised a distinction between the two scenes.

MARGARITA WITH A STRAW - Director's Still 2

AE: I would imagine some people on that board justified it to themselves by saying, “Well, at least the two women were both disabled.”

SB: I definitely agree with you. For India, definitely, I feel the fact that they were both disabled meant, “It’s fine. It felt moving and beautiful,” vs. “Oh my God!” I absolutely agree. Without a doubt, I think for many homophobic people across the world, not just in India, that makes them able to accept that.


AE: In general, what kind of feedback have you received from moviegoers who have watched the film? More specifically, what have the characters of Laila and Khanum meant to people?

SB: People have never come across a character like Laila. Ever. I’m talking now about world festivals. We’ve been in 135 world film festivals, starting with Toronto and then the London BFI and major festivals all over the world. And this is the international response to the film. It’s really always standing ovations and hugs and tears and people saying, “We have never come across characters like Khanum and Laila.”

People expected that they would be picky and feel sorry and feel sad, but they feel exhilarated and uplifted and empowered. That is what is unexpected from people.

Margarita, with a Straw screens at 7pm EST on March 10 at the ReelAbilities Film Festival in New York City.

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