The first half of Cocktail is cracking. The humour flows freely; there are genuinely warm moments and a novelty to the drama. Two girls – wild child Veronica (Padukone) and Plain Jane Meera (Penty) – live together, their contrasting personalities grounding each other and bringing them closer as friends. Enter guy (Khan) – goofy, flirtatious, fun.
Guy and wild child have a fling, Plain Jane is wary of guy but eventually falls in love with him, guy loves Plain Jane too. Then what?
You walk out in the interval happy and hopeful. Will melodrama take over? Will the conflict be forced? Will the strings tie up well? Thankfully, Cocktail manages to hit quite a few high notes post-interval too, floundering a little in its narrative towards the end but getting its act together. In spite of the most insipid speech by a Hindi film hero in the climax (it brought back unpleasant memories of an equally inane speech by Abhay Deol in Aisha), Cocktail will leave you upbeat and with a smile.
Writers (brothers) Imtiaz and Sajid Ali have written a fairly engaging script, some clever repartee keeping the mood alive. For a frothy rom-com, though, Cocktail’s slightly stretched.
Stereotypes abound – the hero’s an incorrigible flirt, his mom obviously prefers the goody-two-shoes over the more bindaas girl, and a twist before the climax leaves you slightly disappointed. Yet, there’s enough banter and wit to overshadow the shortcomings, the smart writing accompanied by good acting and an edgy score by Pritam.
Imtiaz’s script resembles some of his earlier work, except this one’s a lot less serious – the intensity is underplayed and the film never goes overboard with the drama. The attempt seems to be to put together a breezy film that’s fun while it lasts, and director Homi Adjania and his writers manage to accomplish that. It’s interesting to see an Imtiaz Ali script unfold through the eyes of another director, and Adjania immerses the film in a distinct, cool flavor. Anil Mehta’s cinematography compliments the genre beautifully.
Deepika Padukone as the spunky Veronica is impressive – sexy and endearing in equal measure. She springs a surprise with a confident performance and is especially fantastic in a longish sequence depicting Veronica’s breakdown. Saif Ali Khan does nothing he hasn’t done before, yet it’s fun to see the actor in a role few others can play with as much charm. The best thing about Gautam is that he’s not as cool as he thinks, and Khan brings that out well.
Diana Penty is alright given that it’s her debut, showing promise in a role that doesn’t demands much of her. Dimple Kapadia, as Gautam’s loud Punjabi mother, is cast in a role that may have been originally conceived for Kirron Kher but makes it a veritable treat.
The best thing about Cocktail is that it is as different as a film can get within a very conventional format. My favourite scene has Gautam talk to Veronica and Meera together about his feelings towards each of them. “Look. You love me. I love her. Let’s sort this mess out.” A rare moment in Hindi cinema.