Spot the slut: The Cocktail test for good girls

by Rajyasree Sen  Jul 16, 2012 15:08 IST

#Cocktail   #Deepika Padukone   #Diana Penty   #FilmCrit   #Homi Adajania  

Spoiler Alert: If you plan to see Cocktail, be warned this article contains some spoilers.

A girl enters a pub and sits down. The barman asks her what she wants. Since this is India, she gets a little bit of molestation from over-friendly men, lots of character assassination, and a cocktail on the side. Not a good joke, you say. Well, going by the film Cocktail – this is what “loose” girls deserve. You can be independent, self-sufficient, a really good friend – but hey, if you drink and wear small clothes, you ain’t worth shit.

So while everyone is singing paeans to Cocktail and how cool it is, I have to say for me it was more badly-made lassi than a well-made cocktail. What irked me – other than the fact that it was one of the most boring and blah films I’ve seen in ages, and trust me, I’ve seen a lot of rubbish – is that Hindi films might have undergone a sea-change from the times of Aruna Irani and Sashikala, but it seems the heroine’s character has never changed.  Deepika Padukone is living proof of that.

Deepika Padukone's character is portrayed the way vamps were in the '80s. Image courtesy Cocktail official Facebook page.

But before we get to the heroine, we have the hero. Saif  is the most charmless desperado you might ever meet. He walks up to unknown women, makes the most asinine passes at them, goes to a pub with one woman, leaves with another, shifts into the home of his new inamorata without a by-your-leave. And then makes moves on her flat-mate, who of course instantly reciprocates. Such is his charm. He is a pile-on if there ever was one. And one who seems to have aged very badly, because he looks 45 but says he’s 32.

Then there’s girl number one. She’s demure, seemingly of low IQ since she comes to London to meet a man she’s married to but has incorrect contact details for her pati parmeshwar, has no place to stay, has no job, and agrees to stay indefinitely at the home of an unknown inebriated woman who she meets in the toilet of a drugstore. The pure-as-driven-snow idiot savant though, is a qualified designer – who lands a job with the biggest design firm in London – but still refuses to shift out (why pay rent, when you can freeload?), picks up dirty clothes from the floor, cooks food, prays every morning and never a drop of alcohol passes her un-kissed lips. Oh, and she never ever wears revealing clothes. Only salwar kameezes, which make way for trousers later. This is dear Diana Penty – who also has a sweaty upper lip through the film, which upset me much.

And then there’s Deepika Padukone’s character – the strongest of the lot. She’s independent (funded by invisible parents), seems to work as a fashion photographer, stays on her own, pays for her upkeep, doesn’t sponge off strangers, looks like a super-model, opens her house to the damsel-in-distress (says the one funny sentence in the film – “what’s in the house is on the house”), sleeps with Saif, lets him stay at her place also, and is fiercely protective of and loyal to both friend and lover. But what good is all this loyalty, independence and attractiveness? It all gets negated because she is a vessel of many sins -  she wears teeny clothes, doesn’t cook, isn’t religious, isn’t house proud, loves her drinks, flirts with men, and loves  partying. Shame shame.

So if you thought – like I did – that this was a modern film, where the independent chick gets the guy, you’re mistaken. All she gets from Saif is a roll in the hay and a lot of slap-and-tickle, until he spots demure Diana Penty and feels his heart skip a beat. So they both play a little kissy-face behind Deepika’s trusting back and then decide to hook up. And Deepika, once she realises she’s in love with Saif starts wearing salwar kameezes and aches for Saif’s mother’s blessings and her kangans. And she also becomes religious, starts cooking and picking up the dirty clothes for the wash. Because that’s what good girls who get the boy, do. And also because we are actually watching Devdas and not Cocktail. Once Saif lets her know that he actually likes Ms Goody Two Shoes, Deepika gets unhinged and does quite a good imitation of Glenn Close.

What really irked me is that the same stereotypes which we’ve seen for eons in Hindi films – of the vamp and the good girl are once again played out and reiterated. You’d forgive it if it’s a Sooraj Barjatya family-film, but this is Homi Adajania – he of Being Cyrus fame. The man – whose affections everyone seems to be hankering after, for no known reason – is the real slut in the film. He sleeps with anything that moves, his one-liners are horrible, he even expects that he’ll carry on living under Deepika’s roof while making the beast with two backs with her flat-mate. And most importantly, even slutty Saif prefers Penty’s virginal charms over Padukone’s scarlet woman ones. Also, the message is that it’s quite fine to stab your best friend in the back and pucker up with her boyfriend who she’s made the cardinal mistake of asking to stay behind with you at a party. But it’s not fine to not pray and not cook food. So morality has nothing to do with loyalty or honesty or taking responsibility for one’s actions. It has everything to do with wearing revealing clothes and drinking and dancing at a bar and not being a traditional Indian woman.

Remember My Best Friend’s Wedding?  There Julia Roberts goes a little whacko when she realises she loves her best friend and he wants to marry the butter-won’t-melt-in-your-mouth Cameron Diaz. But she doesn’t morph into a doppelganger of Diaz. Even Diaz is shown as as normal when she admits that she actually wants to pursue a career and not follow her husband on his travels as a sports writer. But such normalcy can only be expected from the fallen West. Not here. Here women who go to pubs are “loose characters” and modern-day harlots who deserve to be screwed and dumped by strangers and even men they know.

I still have a splitting headache after watching Cocktail. It’s been over 48 hours. But the trauma and umbrage has not waned. Since I do cook, clean and pick up the dirty clothes for a wash, the only thing left for me to do is wear a Ritu Kumar salwar kameez and dust off my Shiva idol and start praying. And if good things come to those who are desi and dress desi, may a slutty Saif sweep me off my feet as well. Oh, I forgot, I just need to stab a friend in the back before that.

Rajyasree Sen is a bona fide foodie, culture-vulture and unsolicited opinion-giver. In case you want more from her than her opinions, head to www.foodforthoughtindia.blogspot.com and order some delicious food from her catering outfit. If you want more of her opinions then follow her at @rajyasree