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Cocktail: Who”s The Slut?

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By Tania Goklany:

When I saw the promos of Cocktail with a couple of friends for the first time, I wasn’t keen on watching it because I thought it’ll be a predictable movie, which it was in terms of its plot, but I hadn’t the slightest clue that it’ll be such a horrible movie echoing the most regressive values of our society. The character sketches of the three protagonists Veronica, Meera and Gautam are as stereotypical as they can get. My friends mocked me for not wanting to catch this movie since they thought it’ll be the epitome of modern day relationship drama. They came out of the hall disappointed, while I came out agitated, angry and with a splitting headache.

Veronica’s character, portrayed by Deepika Padukone, is one of a carefree, fun and independent one. She wears what she likes, and is overtly sexy. She does what she wants. She lives life on her own terms. She parties, comes back late, drinks, dances, dates men and has her share of fun with them. However, after falling in love with Gautam, she is willing to give up her lifestyle and undergo a complete personality and identity shift for his sake. She wants to become like Meera, enacted by Diana Penty, who is shy, reserved, and doesn’t assert herself like Veronica. She’s mostly seen wearing ‘salwar kameez’ and trousers which apparently is a major reason why Gautam’s mother, played by Dimple Kapadia, approves of her as her to-be-daughter-in-law. In fact, in more than one scene, comments are passed on Veronica’s dressing style in the movie. Boman Irani’s character is seen pleading with her to wear her ‘lungi’, while Dimple’s character says “tu ladki buri nahi hai, bas kapde dhang ke pehna kar”. Queues like these in the movie forced me to question why is it that wearing what she wants is such a big issue. What is the extent to which a woman’s body and her ways are controlled?

Paradoxically, a woman is a victim of patriarchy irrespective of how she dresses. She may wear a ‘burqa’, or a mini-skirt, both are perceived as having been influenced by the misogynistic attitude of the society we live in. A woman in a ‘burqa’ or ‘salwar kameez’ is perceived as conforming to the norms and dressing codes laid by the patriarchal society, and if a woman wears a mini-skirt, she’s rebelling against the norms laid by patriarchy for women but is still working from within the same structure. This subversion, some may see as liberating from the patriarchal conduct, but it is not liberation in the true sense.

So, Meera, the conformist to how a woman should be in a patriarchal society is Gautam’s eventual choice for a wife. Thus Veronica is portrayed as the bad-girl. Here, women who enjoy themselves, lead their lives their way and go to pubs are “loose characters” and modern-day harlots who deserve to be screwed and dumped not only by the guy they love, but also by strangers.

Also, morality it seems, has nothing to do with loyalty, honesty or taking responsibility for one’s actions (all of which Veronica owns up to), it has everything to do with not cooking and not praying. So, it’s fine to play Judas and betray your best friend and fondle her boyfriend behind her back as long as you’re fully clad. But it’s not fine to wear revealing clothes and dance at a bar and not be a traditional Indian woman. The film conveys that Veronica is the slut for being bold and beautiful while Meera is the goody-two-shoes despite having behaved quite otherwise.

Eventually Meera’s character is the one portrayed as the better one, why? Both characters are poles apart, why does one have to be better than the other? This movie echoes the sentiments of an overtly masculine society, our society (since it’s a hit and masses have accepted the movie), that recommends a particular model/version of woman as the better one.

This movie left me pondering over a little too many questions. Why can’t an independent woman be accepted in the society? By the end of it, Veronica craves for a man/ a family. Why the portrayal of women as dependant? What is wrong with a woman who knows exactly what she wants and wears what she wants?

However, my biggest problem with the movie was how an independent, headstrong woman’s character was made to plead and beg for a family eventually to the extent that she was willing to change herself head to toe. This movie seemed like a desperate attempt to preach values that ensure women yield to the patriarchal ideology. So if you thought, much like I did, that this is a modern-day movie wherein the independent chick gets the guy since times are changing and that women have their freedom, you’re highly mistaken.

You must be to comment.
  1. Nupur Noor Narula

    strongly put in simple words. hated the movie to the core. loved veronica for what she was until she was raped by hindi cinema #typical #puke

  2. I

    I never just saw it as the guy didn’t fall in love with the best friend because she cooked and cleaned and was more covered…I think he had a sort of fascination with her and a different sort of respect from what he had for Veronica. He probably saw Veronica as a fun, headstrong and self-sufficient person like she is, but also was taken aback by Meera’s soft strength.

    In fact I think we were supposed to understand that less assertive women are not necessarily less strong but also not necessarily more moral. I really think the movie tried to show two cases of very different ways women have to deal with their identities in society. It sort of mirrors the paradox. In the beginning we were sympathetic to Meera, then we are sympathetic to Veronica. They both certainly gained respect for each other’s strengths.

    Sure, Veronica didn’t get the guy here but Gautham as a person chose Meera. I also don’t think Veronica changed herself for others necessarily. Why do you assume its a bad influence or motivated by an insecurity or a deficit? The ‘andarwaali’ trait that she liked about Meera I think was responsibility and tradition, not docility or ‘better’ morality. She saw why Gautham’s family valued it and came to want it herself. She could have instead sneered at and rolled her eyes, which she didn’t. Before Gautham, she never wanted a very traditional Indian lifestyle and family. She wanted fun, carefree dating which she could have continued to choose for her lifestyle. She could probably have found a family of people like her. Problem is she fell in love with Gautham. And Gautham’s mother was also not being portrayed as right either. ‘Agar aaj main theek hoon, wo is ladki …’ I forgot the exactly line but it served as a way to set straight this mind-set of his mother. Maybe in due time, Gautham’s mother would have accepted her dressing sense too like she was slowly accepting her personality and even if she didn’t this is not an all-perfect character according to the movie anyway. I think if anything the movie should have also included that Veronica does not necessarily need to please everyone and that sometimes even trivial small-minded judgement about things like dress will get in your way but shouldn’t stop you because there are many more important things to care about.

    I really felt most respect for Veronica in the end so I don’t see where she was portrayed bad. I just don’t think the point of the movie is that black and white to say the ‘slutty’ girl is the loser. But it depends on your world-view what were the most important implications of the movie. Its only a very disrespectful and small-minded person who will come up with an idea that Veronica deserved to lose and these people will think this even if there is no such suggestion. I don’t think this is the movie’s point.

  3. RG

    i totally agree with your view over here,,,,a point well taken,,,,compared to dis,,,luv ajkal stil had sm sense,,,

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