Cocktail was released in 2012 and was directed by Homi Adajania. It’s been 10 years now. Starring Deepika Padukone, Saif Ali Khan, and Diana Penty, the movie went on to become one of the greatest hits of all time and win four awards. But there is one character in the movie who truly takes the cake, and that is Veronica (played by Deepika Padukone).
Veronica is portrayed as the “IT Girl” – the life of every party, rich, spoilt, carefree, and living her life on her own terms. She personified freedom and ambition. While she had rich parents who sponsored everything, she worked as a photographer. She was the complete opposite of Meera who personified the traditional homely girl and had beliefs completely opposite to that of Meera. While this portrayal of two women with completely different personalities is problematic and also very stereotypical, we can delve into that later.
Coming back to Veronica. She found Meera crying in a department store washroom and after she learnt what happened to her, she invited her to stay at her apartment. Yes, she asked a complete stranger to stay at her place. Veronica often introduces Meera as “my friend” when she is out with other friends. Meera shows her apprehension to stay with her when Gautam moves in. But Veronica asks her to stay because her friend was more important to her.
Now place yourself in Veronica’s shoes and think how would you react if you found out that your boyfriend cheated on you with your best friend and now they are in love with each other? What followed next was the most realistic depiction of a female heartbreak. Initially, Veronica does congratulate them because, hey, they are her friends but you can see the pain in her eyes.
Hell breaks loose and Veronica goes into a downward spiral. She cooks lamb biryani for Gautam to make things like before but that doesn’t happen. In all honesty, things would have been better only if Gautam wasn’t a man-child and told the truth to his mother. But this is Bollywood and we don’t do that here. Gautam and Meera leave her and the apartment doesn’t feel like home anymore. Her emotional outburst and stonewalling are, hence, valid.
You can see the hurt and pain in Veronica when she is too drunk around Gautam and Meera. She lets her guard down and you can feel her vulnerability. Her confrontation with Meera is valid because her best friend backstabbed her. While Gautam is in the wrong too, for Veronica it was shocking because the same Meera despised Gautam with all her might.
To help herself, she does the thing she knows of – partying and immersing herself in unhealthy amounts of liquor. Ideally, people go to their friends and cry their hearts out. Veronica did not have this. The unhealthy coping and defense mechanism backfired. We have seen male heroes taking the alcohol route when heartbroken, but for a woman to do this on screen was utterly novel and in our country, even scandalous.
Post her accident, Veronica goes on to change herself and tries to fit in the traditional mould of Meera which she knew Gautam loved. She dressed in traditional clothes around Gautam’s family. And every time she did that, the feminist in me wanted her to stop doing that. But it was simply an outcome of her heartbreak. Bollywood has often shown heroes going to desperate measures like stalking when heartbroken and Veronica, here, was just trying to prove herself.
We hardly have depictions of female heartbreak in Bollywood. Women after heartbreak are portrayed as successful or unhappily married to some other man. Who will talk about the pain and the suffering and the final coming to terms with grief? For men, there have been countless portrayals of Devdas and Kabir Singh. For women, we only have Veronica. P.S: She deserved better.