Somewhere in the second half of Cocktail, in an anguished outburst Saif Ali Khan announces: “(I) feel like a toy… do bachchiyan khel rahi hain mere saath.” That curiously sums up his latest home production, directed by Being Cyrus man Homi Adajania from a script by Imtiaz Ali (co-written with his brother Sajid Ali). Just that the toy is a little too old to be tonked around by girls half his age.
But the stale ale is not the only wrong ingredient in this colourful, tall and watery concoction. There’s actually not much to hic about this cocktail. But let’s rewind and start with the empty glass.
The Vicky and Cristina of the piece are Meera (Diana Penty) and Veronica (Deepika Padukone) with London being the Barcelona. A victim of a hoax marriage, the shudh desi naari Meera is brought in to her pad by vivacious party animal Veronica. Before the lesbian undertones can develop fully, they are joined by the snappy and senior (you can’t help it) Gautam (Saif), who shares Veronica’s bed and toothbrush.
Cue for Maa (Dimple Kapadia) to descend from Delhi. She obviously likes Betty, er, Meera more as her future bahu given that Veronica never wears pants. Like never!
But the problem starts when on one magical weekend in Cape Town, our Archie Uncle also takes a liking to Betty. [Difficult not to, given the way Desi DP sways to Tumhi ho bandhu; even those luscious long legs of Phirang DP come a distant second.]
That’s the interval point. Despite the disorienting and staccato start (reminiscent of Love Aaj Kal), Imtiaz’s freewheeling writing again defies clichés, breaks age-old Bolly rules and sets up an interesting triangle tale. And then, Cocktail runs into a second half which manages to undo all the good bits and descend into an hour of regressive and redundant schmaltz.
The problem lies a little with this half-foreign-sitcom-half-desi genre itself. It happened with Break Ke Baad and I Hate Luv Storys and it happens here again. The feel and the feelings are so frothy and feathery that when a film like Cocktail switches to an emotional gear, you can’t take it seriously enough. Seeing two characters jump into bed after a random rendezvous seems fun but seeing the same two spend lonely nights in heartburn becomes a pain.
Also, Homi doesn’t seem to be at home handling the heavy bits. He, who made that brilliant first film starring Saif as a Parsi conman, gives a quirky twist to the bindaas-banter scenes of the first half, making Cocktail a distinctly different movie-going experience from an Imtiaz Ali film. But the switch in tone affects his easy-going treatment and hence the fluidity of the film leading to a collapse of the narrative.
Ranbir Kapoor had famously said how he would have done a better job with Saif’s role in Love Aaj Kal. Here too a younger leading man could have diminished the damage. Saif reprises his goofy self of Salaam Namaste but that was 2005 and now at 42, he struggles to make Gautam look and sound 32. He overdoes almost every scene he is in. A few fly — like the Sheila ki jawaani Asterix version — but most sink. All his monologues in the film are sets of half-sentences but not one that comes close to “Haan main… magar woh… suno toh… tumne toh… lekin main…”
The bachhiyan rock, though! Deepika is so much at ease playing the eager beaver that nowhere does her sexiness look fake or vulgar. Veronica is the lifeline of the film and the Padukone babe carries off the part with aplomb on those lethal legs.
The other DP is achingly beautiful. In her first film, top model Diana Penty shows the usual wooden nerves of a debutante but she is so effortlessly exquisite in every frame that your jaws just drop and you keep staring.
Dimple’s funny in her little cameo and Boman Irani as the Mama is as terrific as he always is. Pritam’s two chartbusters — Tumhi ho bandhu and Daaru desi — have given Cocktail the sharp start at the box office and the songs look grand on the big screen thanks to Anil Mehta’s cinematography that brings alive London’s hotspots (Hyde Park to Borough Market) and Cape Town’sbeaches with equal elan. Sreekar Prasad’s legendary scissors, though,seem a bit rusty.
Cocktail’s obviously good to look at, cool to sing along to and even fun to watch at times. But all the zing is gone after the first gulp, leaving a bitter aftertaste. Drink at your own risk.
Pratim D. Gupta