What’s in a name?

By Jigna Kothari

What’s in a name?

Shakespeare never anticipated Hindi films where everything is in the name. And this solely applies to female characters. A source of constant disappointment, this, the last one being the naming of the very outspoken character, one who visits a shrink and confesses of having physical relations with her guy and of having more then one boyfriend and who in the movie makes a naive younger man fall in love with her – she is named Rian Breganza in ‘Ek Main Aur Ek Tu’.

Vidya Balan’s character Vidya in Paa (2009) was somehow comforting, ‘somehow’ because the character was given a few concessions like she conceives when not in India and also the child’s disability shifts the focus to the child and moreover the whole story then revolves around getting Vidya back with her partner who is the father of her child.

So the name question still rankles in my mind. In Cocktail Veronica (Deepika Padukone) in so many ways defines what Meera (Diana) is not. In a medium where image creates an understanding and subtext, I ask why Veronica can’t be Meera and why Meera can’t be Veronica?

Veronica comes from a broken home, is rich, is well known in party circles and gives a damn about what is to be done or not too be done. She meets Meera, who is all-alone in the big new city and gives her a room in her house. Meera, an extreme opposite of Veronica and also an ideal comfort-sounding board for Veronica. In fact before Gautam (Saif Ali Khan) thinks of sharing a home cooked meal with Meera, it is Veronica who confesses to Meera that her house is now a home and she looks forward to come home.

In comes Gautam who is happy to have a no tension physical relationship with Veronica. Meera though accepting of Veronica refuses to accept Gautam’s philandering. But they do forge an enviable friendship.

The true human nature is seen in Veronica when Gautam confides that he and Meera are looking at a life together. She is happy at first for there was no commitment with Gautam and she decides to party for their good life. They go to a club where Veronica still reigns as party queen. It’s here it strikes Veronica how lonely she is. Everywhere around her are people in relationships but she is lonely in spite of being toast of the crowd. There are voices that can’t seem to feel the void inside her. She is an alien in her own life. Now she wants a home, and she wants fun and she wants it her way. Just how different is she from Gautam?

With Meera she had a life and with Gautam she had a fun companion and now both are moving ahead leaving her in a bottomless pit. And she does what any normal person would do. She makes sure Meera leaves her and Gautam.

In the penultimate scene it’s Veronica pouring her heart out to Gautam. There is a second where you see Gautam going for the kiss he thinks she is giving him. But Veronica steps back – she is the stronger of the two.

In Love Aaj Kal, Imtiaz had his lead female character named Meera- a name associated with the longing, the long wait for one’s love. When I met him, I asked him whether his character was named Meera so as to resonate with the audience. For it had with me and I had felt empowered when Meera just before her marriage gives her first love a second chance and when it fails she moves ahead. As a woman that broke all the long standing ‘forever’ love stories in me. Imtiaz said the character name was not based on Meerabai’s character but yes somewhere it does make a connect.

In a society much adamant to lay rules on women’s behavior there is always a Veronica killing the Meera in her just to be a rebel

And a Meera who is killing the Veronica in her to be accepted by society.

So Imtiaz, why is my Meera hiding in Veronica?

 

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The hero men love…

By Jigna Kothari

One of the symptoms of living a subject for three years is that you just don’t know when it is over. The book is out, we are on our next project but still the emotional connect is yet not off. Love the aftertaste. The feeling one gets post a heavy workout yes we did that and yes, we will do it again.

Last week I saw the Homi Adjania directed, Imtiaz Ali and Sajid Ali written love story Cocktail.
The curiosity to see the movie was definitely because it was written by Imtiaz Ali and added curiosity was thanks to Homi Adjania who after directing the dark movie “Being Cyrus” had broken out of his hibernation for this movie. This in itself was an interesting cocktail for the writer in me.

In Cocktail the woman who has just been duped of her savings by her husband who had promised a glorious life in London is Meera (Diana Penty). But this Meera seems true to her friend Veronica (Deepika Padukone). Veronica and Meera share an almost enviable relationship, both are independent, both single and both extreme in nature. In their world men should be incidental.

 

It almost is, till they forge a friendship with a certain flirt I-am-handsome-and-all-women-are-made-for-me Mr Gautam Kapoor (Saif Ali Khan). This tendency of all-women-want-me seems to be a perennial Hindi film hero problem. The day the hero sheds this trait he will become as true protagonist.

The men in the audience were happy being in Gautam’s shoes reacting with a certain pleasure in the penultimate scene where Veronica gets closer physically to Gautam and confesses she wants him physically and emotionally. There was a certain kind of laughter in the men of audience showing just how grown up men are. Yeah, they are just as mature as Gautam who decides that with Veronica it is an open, no tension relationship but he wants to marry Meera as he is now looking forward to come home and have a hot cooked meal. While as a woman I cringed when Gautam said that, I was equally amazed at the easiness of Veronica confession.

The only complaint I have with Imtiaz is with the character names.

If only Veronica was called Meera.
Let’s not hide behind Veronica.

More about Veronica and the question of ‘What’s in a name’ in the next post….