The most interesting part of ‘ Cocktail’ is the interplay of relationships between its three protagonists – Gautam, Meera and Veronica. Before Gautam enters the scene, the bonding between Veronica and Meera itself was quite fascinating. With little snippets like when Meera offers the dredges of milk to a sloshed but hungry Veronica to the time Veronica asks Meera ‘ pink or purple?’ before they hit the road for a night out. The great store that Veronica places on their relationship is evident when Meera volunteers to move out in light of the growing intimacy between Veronica and Gautam and Veronica replies, “ Who kaun hota hai hamare beech mein aanewala?’.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that a couple sharing an intimate relationship would resent the presence of a third person. But that quite often is not the case. Why? First off there is the intrinsic voyeur in all of us. Actually it is voyeurism as well as voyeurism in reverse. We want to exhibit our intimate relationship to the world and we want to observe our intimate moments ourselves. And that applies to men as well as women. Celebrities recording their sex tapes, in spite of the risks involved is case in point. Boys recording mms clips of intimate moments with their girlfriends and broadcasting t is an extreme form of it. Giant mirrors in hotels of pleasure are another examples of catering to this need for observing one’s own intimate moments. Basically, one does not want the moment of one’s extreme passion and most pleasurable relationship pas onto oblivion without anyone observing it. A third portion in the relationship serves that purpose. When Meera points to Veronica that she is not wearing pants and Veronica pointing to Gautam says, “ A few moments back, when he was in the room, even he did not have his pants’. At another point, she confesses. “ And the is awesome in bed’. These are details she need not have shared with Meera, and she does. Of course things can never remain at this level for long. The third person too develops her own erotic fantasies fed on these images and yearns to translate them to reality. This is exactly what happens to Meera.
Something similar happens to Mahedndra , Asha and Vinodini in Chokher Bali. Initially, Asha confides the details of her intimate moments with Mahendra to Vinodini. ( In Rituparno’s film version, Asha shows her love bites to Vinodini and Vinodini cattily admonishes her, “ Ask him to be careful. You may get septic wounds.!’ Quite expectedly, Mahndra ends up lusting for Vinodini.
The third person also serves another purpose – adding spice and breaking the monotony of a pure monogamous relationship. After the initial passion wears off two persons can only take so much of each other, and a third person helps as a kind of distraction and adding a bit of friction in the relationship necessary to keep it going. In simple words it adds a bit of drama to the affair which could otherwise get boring.
The sakhis in Radha-Krishan dalliance serve the same purpose. Lalita and Visakha tease Radha about various moves of Krishna. Radha , in turn, in the famous Manna Dey Bengali song Says , “ Oh Lalita, oke aaaj onnyo ghate chloe jete bolna’ ( oh Lalita , please ask him to go to another ghaat today.” In the Bollywod films of 60’s, the heroines , right from Madhubala in Mughal-e-Azam to Asha Parekh in countless movies would have a close friend who would serve this purpose. Devars like Salman in in Hum Aapke Hain Koun..? or Amal in ‘ Charulata’ play a similar third point giving company to the bhabi while the elder brother focuses on his business activities. Such a situation is not free from danger as the developments in Charulata proves. Jules, Jim and Catherine of ‘Jules et Jim’ are another awesome threesome , whose brief interlude of blissful co-existence, as is always the case, cannot last for ever.
The triangle in Cocktail is interesting because all the three vertices have a fascinating relation with each other : Gautam-Veronica, Gautam-Meera, Meera-Veronica. And the behavior of all three once the triangle gets messy is sketched out with mastery detail and freshness, The Gautam-Meera passage from here on is a primer on the art of seduction. Meera is smart enough to know intuitively that being aggressive going to backfire as it will put her in the same lane as Veronica, and she cannot win on the home turf of the latter. So she waits for Gautam to make the first move and she waits till they are in a fresh territory, South Africa. The writing here is amazingly good, the best I have ever seen. When Gautam gives that big one about What Makes Meera Hot , ending his eulogy with ‘ Your smile is like a social service. Dekho kaise chaaro traf tension kam ho rahe hain” and Meera remarks, “ Hey you are good, no wonder tumse ladkiyan patti hain’, and Gautam replies that he is pleased with his own performance, but adds, the performance was so good because it was a natural one, meaning that , he meant what he said. This is subtle, courtship at its best. He tells Meera she should try it sometimes and then adds, ‘ But then you don’t need it. Tum par to aise hi log girte hain, idhar udhar’ . Meera senses that her moment has come. “ To tum kyon nahin girte?’ she says impishly and gives him a gentle shove. Standing in knee-deep water, Guatam says’ Lo gir gaya”. He has got his acceptance and they know now the passion burns equally on both sides, dono taraf aag barabar, and what remains is the final consummation, which happens during the rave party on the beach, preceded by the mating dance of Tum Hi Bandhu by Meera where she turns on her feminine charm full blast ,and the difference between her moves from that of Veronica should also be noted. As I have pointed out , there is no guilt about the pre-marital sex or the extra-marital sex ion Meera’s mind , quite contrary to the thinking of those who are trying to a paint her as a typical ‘ Bharatiya Nari’. Even Meea lets out her secret to Veronica, when she says’ Galti ho gayi”. “ To galti kar chuki hai aap already’, Veronica snipes in.
Gautam’s reaction to this situation is interesting too. In another extremely well-written scene, Gutam figures they should try to talk things out as he still likes Veronica and he would like all three to remain friends. He gives his line about “ Jab bade bade desh ek chhoti si table par baith ke paramanu vinash jaise muddo ka hal kar sakte hain , hum yeh chhota sa problem ka hal nahin kar sakte hain?’ Meer attempts to get up, saying. “ Gautam, I am out of this’. Veronica asks her to stay, “ Hey guys , what’s happening here? We are all friends!”. In the heart of her hearts she knows what is amiss, but she is trying to play cool. Of course the façade does not last long and she is shattered.
Imtiaz and Homi in their interview have explained Veronica’s behaviour from here on quite well. More than Guatam, it is the familial bonds and the world of normal relationships which she never had is what she is yearning for. All her pub hopping and sexual bravado was a façade. Deep within she wanted a knigt in white to come and rescue her from her private hell and loveless existence. With Meera stealing away Gautam from her is like the last straw floating away. Deepika portrays her neurotic behavior in this phase very well . I have said elsewhere how it is far more nuanced and broader in range compared to say Meena Kumari in Saheb Biwi Aur Ghulam. One moment she is wearing salwar-kurta tryig to cook biriyani, next moment she is showing Meera the door and finally when all the tricks fail, she tires her last ditch attempt at attracting attention by going whole hog on the path of self destruction and self-degradation.
Her redemption is also insightfully sketched. When she sees how much Meera and Gautam care for her , and how much they are they are willing to give up to save her from destruction, her self esteem returns, She quite sensibly realizes that it cannot be anyone’s fault that Gautam loves Meera and not her. So just when she can almost have Gauatm back she lets him go. She is whole now. By this sacrificial act she has risen in her own esteem as well in the esteem of Meera and Gautam. She can face life confidently now and she can make a fresh start.
In my mind there is o doubt that she w ill meet fabulous man sooner or later and give him all the love that she knows she is capable of giving. And she will receive love In good measure too. And why not? You are such a lovely girl. You have your problems. But which of us don’t? You are a lot of fun, with great energy level, and a big heart. We love you Veronica.
And we love you Imtiaz and Homi . Thank you for giving us Veronica. And Meera. And Gautam.
In that order for me.
- Cocktail – Regressive and Misogynist?
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