How Deepika Padukone’s Veronica Humanises The Stereotypical “Bad Girl” In Cocktail

Possibly embodying the rawest of emotions, Padukone’s "bad girl" ends up tugging on the viewer’s heartstrings
How Deepika Padukone’s Veronica Humanises The Stereotypical “Bad Girl” In Cocktail

For a long time, the relationships between caricatures formed the basis for successful cinema – be it the girl-next-door, the small-town boy with a dream, the underdog or the rich, spoilt brat. Their individual character arcs or the situation that breaks their inertia serves as entertainment and escapism to those who are bogged down in their mundane lives. One caricature amongst the many is the modern-day party girl – the tez ladki who consumes unhealthy amounts of alcohol or has a string of meaningless hookups. The girl who men can only use to decorate the sexual triumphs in their days of yore but rarely accept as a companion for life. Their representation has been restricted to a villain's trophy girlfriend, the girl with not one sanskaari bone in her body or simply a mode of escapism for men who need a release from their domestic expectations. However, Deepika Padukone takes a brave step by immersing herself in this stereotype and depicting the vulnerability to this "party girl" in Homi Adajania's Cocktail.

From her introductory sequence, Padukone's character is defined on the surface. Rich, spoilt and carefree – the girl who can be found at a disco every other night with a man she can take home at the end of it. Some grimace at her lifestyle while others are titillated. She is that beguiling woman you cannot look away from and comes with no-strings-attached – what more could the non-committal Indian young man want? She sympathises with the traditional Meera weeping in the department store bathroom, offering her a home and with it, a friendship without judgments. They make Veronica's plush London apartment a home – with closet montages and hugs shared in the kitchen. The ecosystem is unpleasantly disturbed when Gautam enters the picture – the desi playboy who Meera despises but Veronica jumps into a fling with, after their comical encounter.

He starts living with the two girls, setting up scope for chaos amidst the trio's camaraderie in the song, Daaru Desi. When his mother lands up at his house – he quickly jumps ship and poses the puritanical, salwar kameez clad Meera as his girlfriend instead of Veronica. The charade plays out with Gautam and Meera developing feelings for each other and Veronica donning the persona of the domesticated Indian girl that society worships, in hopes of love and companionship. Her daydreams are shattered when Gautam causally tells her about his feelings for her best friend, and seamlessly switches from one best friend to the other. While Veronica does congratulate them on the surface, the viewer is aware of how denigrating the realisation may have been – a sense of betrayal from Meera and the dispersibility she had for Gautam. Her downward spiral ensues as she painfully realises that she is nothing more than a trophy for men and the person who is only meant to "have fun with." Padukone perfectly captures Veronica's nonchalance, her pain, her anger and her subsequent coping mechanisms. The payback of being left behind despite giving both Gautam and Meera a home filled with love and friendship is beautifully essayed by her emotional stonewalling and outbursts in the night.

As an actor who takes on multiple complex issues, Padukone's portrayal of Veronica is one of the strongest. Along with establishing her as a talented actor, she also successfully brought to the fore multiple issues that go unnoticed due to timeless stereotyping (like the Madonna-Whore complex). Why are love and acceptance only the domesticated Indian woman's right, while Westernized women are doomed to the spinster's life? Veronica tries everything to get Gautam back – going so far as to become exactly like Meera. While the film ends with Meera getting the man, it is Veronica who emerges as the star of the show. Possibly embodying the rawest of emotions, Padukone's "bad girl" ends up tugging on the viewer's heartstrings – making them question why she never found happiness in the dynamic despite having the highest emotional quotient amongst the lot.

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