Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cocktail is zany, endearing but could have utilized its potential for a stronger drink

Cocktail. Barely any movie in the recent months has created such an astounding buzz. Upto the release week, the performance of Cocktail's marketing campaign has strikingly ebullient and significantly clinical to set it up for a grand release this weekend. Third production of Saif Ali Khan's Illuminati Films, Cocktail comes after the debacle of Agent Vinod from the same production team. Somehow, things looked much more promising this time around and the super successful music of the film added that must-watch element to the fare since the last two months. Homi Adajania directs after 6 years since he gave us one of India's best thriller movie, Being Cyrus and I found myself suffering from an 'uncontrollable urge' to watch his second outing, garnished with the arresting looks of the newcomer Diana Penty and the riveting score. A couple of days ago I had tweeted, If Saif's production team lets Adajania do his thing, and not interfere like they did with Sriram Raghavan (in Agent Vinod), Cocktail could create magic, more so because it is written by Imtiaz Ali. The fact of the matter is that rom-coms in India is a beaten to death genre, Saif himself has done tons of them and Imtiaz has made films only in this genre. Moreover, Imtiaz is often pummeled for penning similar stories on post-modern relationships. Does it work one more time?

Cocktail, despite being fueled by all these hangups, seemed to be strutting a crackling vibe all through the past weeks waiting to unfold for the 140 odd minutes on Friday the 13th. To put the speculation to rest, Cocktail does manage to be relentless fun, but it had the potential to ooze greatness, which unfortunately remains untapped. More on that later. Fortunately or unfortunately, Cocktail's audience is limited to major Indian cities and the diaspora audience because this frothy rom-com adheres to the sensibilities of the more radical sections of the society, rather than someone in a remotely developed part of India seeking entertainment out of a Salman Khan movie. Cocktail does not come out as a whirlwind adventure, but as a breezy affair, much on the lines of EMAET and LPNY earlier this year, perfectly anointed with humor that is fantastically situational and a butt load better than the lame humor delivered to us by Housefull 2, Rowdy Rathore etc. What works for Cocktail is that it is unencumbered of melodramatic schmaltz for most parts and the wiry jumpiness handed out to you never keeps you disengaged, even as it stretches beyond your preference only to fall for the expected. If you do get distracted, you can just watch Diana Penty who is probably the prettiest thing on screen ever. Apart from humor, Adajania, along with Imtiaz Ali-Sajid Ali who have written the movie, weave the narrative with countable astute sequences. The sequence when Saif's mom, played by Dimple Kapadia, comes to visit him, the sequence by the waters when Saif flirts with Diana and makes her feel better, the club sequence encapsulating the song Tera Naam Jhapdi Firaan and many other portions gyrate this concoction well enough with both fun and feel, exponentially building up to the the pinnacle of a pre-climax. Cocktail does not get disruptive or loud in its entertainment, or pretentiously overbearing in its melodrama. Imtiaz's writing has lent an effortless ease to the emotional leaps of modern relationships. One sequence on the table with three main characters discussing their relationship is a rarity in Indian cinema. Adajania's liking for the dark side is vented subtly in the second half when one of the characters displays grey shades, I would let out more than what I should if I say more but I must say that one craves to have seen more of that.

The problem with Cocktail is that it tries too hard to be cool which works recklessly to pin it to a striking highpoint, halfway through the second half. What happens afterwards is just an insipid take on a love triangle, that lacks innovation in both style and substance. You almost feel like it shows the gun to shoot you time and again, in minor instances, but ends up chickening out when it actually comes to pulling the trigger. The last half hour is not scaly, but definitely appears stretched, which could have been forgiven if it was not meant to lead us to the expected. Cocktail has the immaculate potential that could have done so much more with the underwhelming climax and ending. One more thing you miss in the narrative is the intensity of love that was a permanent flavor in Imtiaz's writing of Jab We Met, Rockstar and even Love Aaj Kal. Its there, but not in sufficient amounts to make you root for the couple, either of them. The character sketches may lack coherence but the altruistic performances make up for it.

Cocktail is produced by Illuminati Films, Eros International and Maddock Films that allows it to boast of all the possible funds available for expense. First things first. The music of Cocktail provides an indispensable vitally thumping bassline to the whole movie and its campaign. Being touted as the most successful album this year, Cocktail music comes with a bag of almost all strikingly memorable songs, which have been playing on everyone's minds for the past few weeks. Each and every song has become a rage, in some part of the country. Pritam, often written off for his surreptitious approach in music, has delivered an album that can be directly connected to half the collections of the movie at the Box Office. My pick of the lot is Yaariyan and Daaru Desi. Anil Mehta is a veteran cinematographer who captures the eye-poppingly gorgeous locales of London and Cape Town with much panache. Film Editing by Sreekar Prasad could have done with a little more chopping, lest it didnt have to accommodate all the songs towards the end. Production Design is classy and charismatic. The background score by Salim-Sulaiman is minimal and works perfectly to keep the focus on the proceedings. Many a times, silence is used efficiently by Adajania to replace a defining background. Writing and dialogues by Imtiaz-Sajid provide genuine laughs with a serious effort to be realistic to life, wherein there are no prepared dialogues, just crazy, weird zaniness.

Deepika Padukone is the real star of Cocktail. After being offered both the female lead roles of the film, she picked up to play the more rebellious lead, Veronica. Watch her in the club sequence when Tera Naam Jhapdi plays and the whole portion that follows after it, this is where she sheds her streak of promiscuous performances. She is hot, charming and funny in an acute depiction of an audaciously uninhibited modern girl that chooses to drown all her sorrows in alcohol whenever she is deprived of love. Deepika sinks her teeth deep into the carefree character and displays both her jovial and dark sides with as much ease. Like a raging river in flood, she manages to deliver what could probably be her career best performance. Diana Penty is rumored to be Imtiaz Ali's find which makes me flip because he chose to cast Nargis Fakhri in Rockstar over Diana Penty? Atleast, Penty can act apart from the fact that her arresting prettiness is eyeroll inducing. The sunny charisma of her face is hard to let go of and the female does a fair job playing the simpleton in an otherwise crazy set of characters. We have to accept that we have seen Saif play the irresistible lover boy many a times. In Cocktail, he does he is expected to do his same routine but it does not necessarily stand out from his previous portrayals. He is a good actor, nevertheless. Boman Irani provides numerous bursts of laughter playing Saif's uncle, doing what he is best at. Dimple Kapadia is a bout of magnetic classy oomph that leaves you in splits as Saif's mom. Randeep Hooda is wasted in an inconsequential role.

Cocktail is a slice of life film that focuses on permeating the flavors of the youth today. It tends to be mature and responsible, yet retaining its canvas of breeziness and situational comedy. Despite keeping up the entertainment value for more than 2 hours, it could have definitely utilized its immense potential for a better mix of a drink towards the end. I am far from disappointed but I feel that the genre's dreck dropped on this one. It has taken a monstrous opening at the Box Office, presumably. The buzz and word of mouth were phenomenal upto its release and I am expecting it to remain the same, considering it provides wholesome entertainment. This one should cover up for the shortcomings of Agent Vinod for Saif and his production house. The ending/solution of the film is probably the most defining piece of the puzzle and a relatively weaker ending forces me to filch away half a star from the final rating. Dont go by my word, go watch it!

Rating - 3/5

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