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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2 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Ananta Seth says:

    Dear Ma’am,
    I enjoyed reading your articles and your insights on the portrayal of women in Hindi Cinema. I would like to invite you for a discussion on the same to Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Delhi University. I’m the coordinator of the Women’s Development Cell. The Women’s Development Cell .
    The Cell seeks to create awareness about important issues related to women and provides a forum for discussion and deliberation on a range of issues such as one’s body, sexuality and gender. We question patriarchy; discuss women’s position in society, fundamentalism, inequality, crime against women and various other issues that affect our daily lives. This not only initiates debate and dialogue but also facilitates the process of breaking away from our class/caste lineages to position ourselves in a broader socio-political context. This year’s theme of our College Annual fest is 100 Years of Indian cinema with an emphasis on Gender Empowerment.
    According to me, You and your Co-authors( Mother, Maiden and Mistress) are the most befitting speakers and would initiate an intellectually stimulating discussion.
    My email Id is ananta_seth@yahoo.co.in. Kindly E-mail me. I would get back to you with the details.

    Eagerly Awaiting your Response!
    Thank You!

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