This coming-of-age story follows the life of Laila (Kalki Koechlin), a spunky, talented and largely confident teenager who, like her peers, is sexually curious and ready to find her own feet. It just so happens that Laila has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair.
When Laila gets admission to New York University, she leaves the security of her Delhi family and home, and also leaves behind heartbreak and rejection, to start a new, more independent life. While her mother (Revathy) accompanies her initially, eventually Laila must make her own decisions and find her own way around in this new world. This includes a relationship with the feisty Khanum (Sayani Gupta), who happens to be visually impaired, and fellow classmate Jared (William Moseley).
At the end of the semester Laila and Khanum go to India to see the latter’s family and reveal the nature of their relationship to Laila’s mother. But the secrets and lies become meaningless when crisis and loss hit the family. In this moment, Laila finally finds her true self and strength and comes to terms with loneliness and self-worth.
Director Shonali Bose succeeds in addressing important issues (portrayed cleverly in the differences between the life of a differently-abled in New Delhi and New York) while keeping the spirit of the film largely joyous, frothy and feel-good. The emotions and concerns are universal and the performances add texture to this (script by Bose and Nilesh Maniyar). Sayani Gupta makes an impact in her role as the supportive partner while Revathy delivers just the right pitch as the protective mother learning to let her child go. Kalki Koechlin’s hard work is undeniable and it’s hard to separate the actor from Laila.
Barring a few overwrought moments and a cheesy ending, camerawork by Anne Misawa and music by Mikey McCleary add texture and rhythm to this surprisingly entertaining and forthright film.