Years back, a gorgeous, elegant woman waltzed her way into our hearts as Shantipriya. Today, she stands tall as the queen of many more hearts, beaming proudly with immense happiness as a deeply perceptive actress and a wonderfully self-aware human being. It's admirable, seeing her evolve into an inspirational figure for so many women. She imbues her charisma into every character she explores, making it hard to pick the very best. However, for me, the unabashed Veronica from Homi Adajania's Cocktail continues to be one of her most fascinating portrayals.
An independent young woman who speaks her mind, Veronica lives life to the fullest. She meets Gautam Kapoor (Saif Ali Khan) and they begin a casual, 'no-strings-attached' relationship. She eventually falls for him while Gautam chooses her naïve and meek friend, Meera (Diana Penty) over her for marriage. In a rather defining moment, a completely broken Veronica, dressed in a shimmering gold dress, with her kohl-smudged-hazy brown eyes shining with tears; says "Bohot logon ne mujhe use kiya, Meera. But, I have to say, you're the best", with such absolute panache. I love that scene because even in that moment of intense pain, she stands dignified, as she desperately tries holding her self-worth intact. Here's a women who is literally disintegrating inside, but we know that she won't give up on herself, that she isn't going to stay broken. I still wonder if anyone but Deepika Padukone could have said that line with the same impact, carrying heartbreak with a certain grace.
Veronica is bold, passionate, courageous, adventurous, intelligent. She is genuine, loving, understanding and is a great friend. There is a beautiful spontaneity and unpredictability to her. It reflects in her fieriness, in her audacity, even in her feelings. She carries a distinctive voice throughout the film, subconsciously fighting for her way and pushing through societal norms.
But, somehow we are conditioned to be believe, or even unintentionally be under the impression that it is the gentle and shy ones who require love and support while the bold women who can pretty much take care of themselves are often viewed as unreliable, resilient under all circumstances and even immune to emotional intimacy.
The fact remains that the science of love and care is equally applicable to both. A woman who seemingly enjoys a fast lifestyle, with a wild and crazed nature on the surface can be filled with benevolent love and loyalty too. She can also be trustworthy, could very well feel helpless at times and might even carry a child-like innocence in her. Written at a time when such beautiful juxtaposition didn't co-exist commonly, Veronica's character is undeniably compelling. Her frivolous, free-spirited nature stands strong on a deeply poignant, emotional underpinning which shapes her as a beautifully layered person. She feels almost perfect, like an untouched, incessant horizon where the sky and the sea meets.
As she rightly puts it "Maine kisi ko pata nahi chalne diya ke main andar se kaisi hoon", Veronica remains an enigma. Deepika embodies this complex character with such ease, delving deep into Veronica's psyche. Her brilliant, raw performance in Cocktail lends a soulful touch to Veronica's deep persona. She turns the genuine connect Veronica feels with Gautam and Meera into one of the most adorable aspects of Veronica's identity. They form an indispensable part of her life. But, love continues to be a tricky and complex phenomenon. The intimacy Gautam feels with Veronica doesn't travel beyond passion to reach the point of commitment, whereas Veronica's love transgresses many a boundaries, offering an earnest chance for them to be together forever. Hence, the inevitable sense of loss sets in and she spirals down into self- destruction on learning that she never was or will be the Cinderella to her Prince Charming.
But, she comes out of it triumphantly; respecting Gautam and Meera's feelings for each other. Living up to the deep-seated bond she shares with them, Veronica decides to let go even as pain tears her apart. Staying true to the verse "tum hi ho bandhu, sakha tum hi", the warm-hearted person she is; she doesn't just walk away but ends up uniting them. Watching her through Deepika's impeccable performance; it felt as though, by breaking out of that suffering, Veronica was, in fact, rediscovering her strengths. Her journey through heartbreak finally manifested as yet another intense side to herself. Listening to the melodious 'Yaariyan', I was left hoping that she finds someone who truly appreciates her because this is a woman who deserves all the love in the world.
Maya Angelou had once said, "Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass". Learning to live through the sweet pain of unrequited love, setting herself free, Veronica does just that. For me, she is pure magic, one that lives somewhere between an emotional dream and an intimate memory. As Deepika Padukone continues to mesmerise us in a wide range of roles; with a magnetic smile and those heavenly eyes bearing a tinge of melancholy, the zesty Veronica remains unforgettable as her breakthrough performance.