(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on 15 July 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/a-cocktail-sans-fizz)
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Diana Penty, Dimple Kapadia, Boman Irani, Randeep Hooda
Director: Homi Adajania
Rating: 2.5 stars
When the director of Being Cyrus sets out to make a rom-com, it’s a good idea to hire the writer behind such hits as Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal and Rockstar. I was apprehensive when I saw this was a Deepika-Saif reunion. And I thought my fears were founded when Gautam Kapoor (Saif Ali Khan) checks out a flight attendant, thanks God for her disdain of underclothes and makes out with her en route to London.
But the first half of this film turned out to be remarkably refreshing. The punch comes in with Veronica (Deepika Padukone), a London party girl who totters across the length of a limo to ask the driver, “Can I pee in this car?” A series of unfortunate events leads her to Meera (Diana Penty), the prototypical Bhartiya Nari, and in this case, victim of a hoax marriage. Veronica takes her in. Meera is both enamoured and discomfited by her Bohemian lifestyle and home.
You forgive the implausibility of several of the events in the film because of the skill with which some of its nuances are highlighted – like the fear of and fascination with everything that’s new and different in a foreign country, to a desi girl raised by her orthodox maasi.
Dimple Kapadia and Boman Irani make for a rollicking first half, supplying that charming subtlety good situational comedy relies on. The dialogues are wonderfully timed, with lines such as “Pandra saal yahin ho par soch toh Lajpat Nagar waale jaise” drawing guffaws from the audience.
But the film loses its way in the second half. Dimple Kapadia disappears, while Boman Irani and Randeep Hooda are consigned to cheesy roles. Many of the film’s sparkling lines are lost amid otherwise clichéd dialogues and, worse, songs at the slightest excuse (including, inexplicably, Arif Lohar’s Jugni.)
What I like most about Cocktail is that it looks at the other side – where the coy woman with a bucketload of morals can, intentionally or unintentionally, manipulate a man where the girl with the free spirit and limbs wide open fails.
Deepika Padukone is a revelation, looking and acting Veronica’s part so naturally that one can’t separate the actor from the character. She doesn’t do the exaggerated drunk walk, and instead, brings out the pitiable lonesomeness of alcohol-induced depression. Saif Ali Khan tries too hard at times, while this is a promising debut for Diana Penty.
However, the film meanders to an unlikely end, with maudlin dialogue and a successful search that would have been impossible without Foursquare.
The Verdict: The film’s undoing is that it succumbs to the very melodrama it mocks.