“This film looks a lot like Love Aaj Kal”, quipped a friend. He added, “And Saif looks too old.”
Those very lines have formed a very significant form of pre-release expectations that have surrounded the film as soon as the promotions commenced. The director of the critically acclaimed English-language Being Cyrus, and the writer who has already earned star status for himself, writing and directing films like Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal, and Rockstar; interesting combination, isn’t it? It’s more so like the successful pair of Love Aaj Kal comes together, this time with a few new changes. Hit music, a terrific on-screen pair, a promising new face, a return of a director, and the expectations of a successful writer who’s able to generate the ‘connect’ factor with his every film – heady Cocktail for a slice of the “Good Times”, right?
Meet newly wed sweet-and-simple Meera (Diana Penty), who is hit on by glib Gautam (Saif Ali Khan) at the airport on arrival, kicked out by her cheating husband, and brought home for shelter by wild Veronica (Deepika Padukone). Interestingly enough, Veronica and Gautam cross paths and get into a relationship, which leads to the three of them staying together, thick as friends, wild as people, insane as hell. A little bit of lust, a bit of love, a bit of friendship and a bit of morality play – all of it mixes into a Cocktail that makes you laugh and cry, and gives you an uncertain edge.
Well, contrary to what a lot of people would think, the movie’s very far away from Love Aaj Kal zone, and instead can be slotted into the category of the buddy-genre, brought to fame by Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai, and brought back to life by Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. The story, written by Imtiaz Ali, is fairly conventional and nothing new looking at the modern scenario, but this is exactly the film’s highest point – one can get the characters very well. And what I’ve noticed in Imtiaz Ali films is that the characters either evolve majorly (Geet from Jab We Met, Heer of Rockstar, Viren from Socha na Tha) or simply have this other side of them that begins to creep up on their forceful, superficial side, not letting go (Jordan from Rockstar, Jai-Meera from Love Aaj Kal).
Here too, he has created an amazing character arc for the three characters so effortlessly played by the leads. We have the womanizer Gautam who suddenly discovers the spark and doesn’t know what to do with it, the affectionate Meera who is more responsible than impulsive, and then we have Veronica, the neglected free-bird who discovers that behind the care-a-damn attitude she is a human who wants to be loved and attended to. The story is more of a journey these characters undertake in their lives.
The screenplay is absolutely fast paced in the first half, and suddenly post-intermission, the brakes are hit, making it quite slow, and people wouldn’t understand why did the pace change all of a sudden. Homi’s done a great job by moving away from his forte and executing a story out of his comfort level, giving the actors an interesting side and niche to them. Be it the scene in which Veronica taunts Meera without letting anyone know till it hits them (“You did it Meera, yes!”), or the one in which (despite standing in the midst of a crowd), Veronica feels she’s creepily alone in the club, the scenes are amazingly well-written and executed.
Technically, it’s Anil Mehta’s cinematography that takes the cake completely. Ravishingly shot, the movie has absolutely delicious frames throughout! Camerawork is steady, the requisite for a movie like this to be shot well. Interestingly enough, I liked the production design of the film – a mixture of cool and raw. The art direction is commendable – houses of Meera and Randeep Hooda have been well designed; keeping it real, keeping it low. Backround score by Salim and Sulaiman is the usual – exuding brilliance all through. The music is quality and has already become a rage, so I needn’t say too much, but of course, the songs are absolutely well-shot, making the overall look slick!
Performance-wise, Saif as the wisecracking womanizer is – well, vintage Saif. He superficially doesn’t do anything new, but the layers and subtlety his character has is noticed well, and he’s done a great job pulling it off. Diana Penty impresses as a debutante. It is understood that she was the first choice for Rockstar, and all I can say is – why wasn’t she chosen for the role? The scene-stealer though, is Veronica-whoops; Deepika Padukone, who plays Veronica like no other could. Her varied emotions, her attitude and aggressiveness, and her style is worth looking out for in what seems to be her career-best. And it’s good that she keeps breaking the image of her last films consecutively! Boman Irani and Dimple Kapadia lend amiable support. Randeep Hooda is wasted. Others are good.
Overall, Cocktail is a charming, stylish look at real-life friendship/relationship confusion, and a blast to watch with friends! Surely worth your buck, as it’s both an entertaining romantic dramedy with oodles of chemistry and a date-flick the youth’s going to dig like no other!