Cocktail: Who”s The Slut?

Posted on November 4, 2012 in Media, Society

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.

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