I had a most profound experience watching the climax of Cocktail. I knew what was coming but wished deep down that it wouldn't. When it finally arrived the entire hall erupted in loud groans and giggles. I looked around at everyone's faces for their reaction and I spotted a young man whose face stood out - he was leaning forward in his seat and staring at the cinema screen with a crestfallen expression on his face like it was the worst day of his life. The kind of face you'd see on a little kid who discovers that his lovely gift-wrapped box contained a dog’s fecal matter.
Starring the overtly trying Saif Ali Khan, the scantily draped bodacious Deepika Padukone and
my fiancé the insanely gorgeous Diana Penty, Cocktail has director Homi Adajania treating the love triangle theme like a ‘spin the bottle’ game - and it ends with the equivalent of the bottle pointing at a very hot woman who smiles to reveal broken teeth.
The highest point of Cocktail is towards its middle when writer Imtiaz Ali and Adajania grab all the clichés of love triangles and send them through the shredder – it’s a brilliantly set scene where the trio actually confront each other to talk it out rather than indulging in ludicrous behind-the-bushes bullshitty misunderstandings. At that moment, Adajania makes you believe that you are watching something special. Frustratingly, almost immediately the film shifts into unintentionally hilarious melodrama – something the film was parodying in the first place. From its zenith brimming with freshness and originality, Cocktail descends into a cornball holier-than-thou reverse-pastiche of Fatal Attraction and Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya until it finally derails and crashes out to a clumsy and messy standstill.
If Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal and Rockstar were a dependable source for kitschy films offering a brand of tough love and distance, then it is a principle completely borne in Cocktail. Cool Player Dude (Saif) hooks up with Hot Pants (Deepika), then falls for her friend Pious Lady (Diana), but Hot Pants wants her honey’s junk to herself. Who will make the ultimate sacrifice? It all ends on an excruciatingly clichéd note, and even the lovey dovey couples at whom this movie is aimed are unlikely to be kept from rolling their eyes. The characters are so wannabe and stereotype that it hurts. Because Deepika is ‘outgoing’, ‘hep’ and ‘trashy’, she hangs around in discotheques, smokes up with dudes, goes to pee multiple times and smooches the hero. Meanwhile Diana makes Rani Mukherjee in KKHH believable, because she is so attached to her ‘Indian heritage’ that she arrives in London in traditional desi dress, does BreakKathak when everyone around her is breakdancing, and only hugs the hero. When distressed, she pulls out a little idol of Meera and prays because she is named Meera. Funnily, Deepika’s character seems to be more in love with Diana’s, and it seems like director Adajania is playing some sort of a subtle homoerotic prank. You expect a lesbian twist at the end but sadly it doesn’t come.
The greatest virtue of Cocktail is that it is very, very good looking. The gorgeous London and Capetown locales supplement the film’s ludicrous characters – in fact if Cocktail were a music video it would be one of the best ones of the year. Pritam’s music is as generic as it gets but listening to Arif Lohar’s Jugni in the bombastic theater speakers blows your mind.
Saif Ali Khan plays the same goofy hotchicksman from Hum Tum, Salaam Namaste and Tara Rum Pum, and it becomes hard to care about the ‘problems’ of a guy whose biggest trouble in life is dealing with two smoking hot women who love him and desperately want to cradle his nads. Someday, Saif Ali Khan will drop all pretense and make a film called Flirting, which will be a semi-improvised welter into such existential problems of rich troubled contemporary flirtatious mid-30’s NRI men.
Deepika Padukone is deliciously bad-gurrl, and seems to have worked on her dialogue delivery as hard as she does on the treadmill. Her hiney is a better actor than the rest of her body but it’s great to see her chewing scenery, even after she goes into Glenn Close Fatal Attraction Mode. Diana Penty shows up like the Eid ka chaand and makes you want to leap into the screen and beg for her frandship. She isn’t as bad as Deepika was in OSO, and most of her acting flaws are masked by her maddeningly sweet visage.
Cocktail is a cinematic cream cheese roll stuffed with a pinecone. It’s a predictable feel-good story, but maybe that’s a good thing - after all, no one wants to see a movie about bad relationships - people have plenty of those in their own lives.