Cocktail: Friends With Limits

Not one of the biggest successes of 2012, but still one of the best films that year was Homi Adajania’s second movie Cocktail, the story of three friends in London and the eventual love triangle that results between them. In many ways, it was a classic romantic story, but one that focused on character drama instead of cool action moments. It was certainly in the shortlist of movies that I’d classify as the best movies of the year. Newcomer Diana Penty pretty much rocked it while veterans Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone also turned in some great moments.

It is always nice to get a film like this in Bollywood, which these days is far too obsessed with the big and flashy. Cocktail is nothing of the kind, not by far, and I just loved almost everything about it. I would love for these three actors to work together again, particularly Diana Penty, and Homi Adjania to return with a third movie too.

Cocktail Poster 001Every now and then there comes a film in Bollywood that goes back to the basic roots of what movies are about: wholesome entertainment and pure family fun, alongwith a cast that looks great on the screen together. Throw in the themes of fashion, friendship and trust, and you have got a promising production on your hand. That’s what Homi Adajania does in his second film of directorial credit. With a star cast consisting of Saif Ali Khan and Deepika Padukone, and fresh-face Diana Penty, Cocktail is a movie that sizzles, and takes you along for a ride through London and even South Africa, making you forget your worries and holding you to it until the end.

Saif Ali Khan as Gautam Kapoor, software engineer by profession and flirt by nature, totally rocks here. This is the type of role, flashy, humourous and care-free, that fits the Nawab of Pataudi to a T (note: Saif is royalty by birth, as his deceased father was the ninth Nawab of Pataudi). Saif definitely brings the charm here for Cocktail and while not an award-winning performance per se, he stills performs to satisfaction, far better than I expected him to. If he does get nominated, I’ll certainly be rooting for him. His expressions, his mannerisms and all are right on the money throughout because he is someone who, rather than playing a character, becomes that character. His performance is realistic, believable, whether he is doing a serious scene or goofing around. A natural actor, and a worthy one too.

Deepika Padukone as Veronica was the surprise of the movie. She plays the typical rich, wild-child with parental issues but she pulls off her role far better than Saif does his. I’d say that this is her best performance to date, narrowly beating out her debut in Om Shanti Om and the 2009-hit Love Aaj Kal, also with Saif. She is perhaps the most relaxed and chill character in the film, up until the half-way mark, and then she kicks into overdrive as the jilted lover whose life starts to break down around her. Her chemistry with Saif is near-perfect and they make a good pair together.

Her chemistry with Diana Penty as Meera, her newfound fresh-from-India friend, was also gold. Imtiaz Ali and Sajid Ali’s dialogues give them all that fresh, modern touch where they talk in youthful slangs and with innuendo, rather than the somewhat archaic, formal and formulaic dialogues in most other movies today. But then again, that has always been Imtiaz’s strengths, one of them at least (note: Imtiaz Ali also directed last year’s blockbuster hit Rockstar). For her performance, I think Deepika definitely deserves an award, for it is a performance of the caliber. One of the hottest performances of the year too, at least in a movie which isn’t about “sexuality sells” (yes, I’m looking at you, Jism 2).

Another surprise with the movie was newcomer Diana Penty, a former model for some major international brands. Starring in a debut movie alongside such superstars as Saif and Deepika is no mean feat, especially with such an experimental movie as Cocktail (owing to its highly youthful and modern approach to expatriate life). But Diana shows that she can stand well enough on her own. Her Meera is in direct contrast to the socially vibrant Veronica, a traditional Indian girl who is recently married and has come to London for the first time to be with her husband.

Except, the husband turns out to be a lout who used her money for his own gain and leaves her alone in the streets of London. From then, we start to see Meera slowly come into her own and Diana delivers one of the strongest debut performances in recent years. Everything from the way she carries herself in the movie, her interactions with her co-stars, her expressions, her moods, etc, indicate that she is here to stay. Given the contrast to Deepika, she also compares favourably in the sex appeal department, because her strengths are quite different.

As Saif’s Gautam himself remarks, Meera is the type of girl that mothers want their sons to marry and she is that typical Indian girl. It’s a role that really suits Diana with her seeming soft-spoken, gentle nature.

The movie also has a great pacing. There are a few scenes, mostly early on, when the characters are all introduced and there is a bit of a jumbled hopping about, but by the time you are like 25 minutes in, the script flows really well. In its youthful exuberance, the movie peaks around the halfway mark, and then it continues on a high of emotional conflicts that are at the heart of any Indian movie, most of them at any rate. The juxtaposition of these two halves, as well as the generally upbeat mood that surrounds the characters even at the worst of times, worked in pulling me into the movie.

I just loved it all.

The music, by renowned music director and composer Pritam Chakraborty, is fantastic. Each of the tracks has something different to offer the viewer. Tum Hi Ho Bandhu (You Are My Friend) is all about having a positive outlook on life, being carefree and believing in your friendships. Sung by Neeraj Shridhar and Kavitha Seth, this is my absolute favourite track from the movie. If you are ever feeling down, this is the song to listen to. Daaru Desi (Local Beer – it really sounds better in Hindi, trust me) is about friendships once again and is another highly upbeat track. Sung by Benny Dayal and Shalmali Kholgade, I think this is also a great party track, especially when remixed.

Then there’s Second Hand Jawaani (Second Hand Youth) which is a fairly typical end-of-movie song, but with the catchy lyrics that are also typical of Pritam’s approach and style (which Irshad Kamil proves to be a deft hand at) this is another great party track, mindless fun is what I’d call it, which is the best kind of fun there is. There are several other tracks on the movie which are really good, such as Angreji Beat Te (On The English Beats) and Yaariyan (Friendships), but they don’t quite have the charm of the three I’ve mentioned already. Overall, a really great fun music album.

Cocktail Stills 001

The choreography of the movie is handled by the ultra-modern duo of Bosco and Caesar who have done a great job of giving us some really nice dance sequences, particularly for Tum Hi Ho Bandhu and Second Hand Jawaani. Usually, I’m ambivalent about their work but in Cocktail they’ve gone several steps further and delivered some really scorching performances.

The locations in London don’t get much attention from the script, although we get some really great visuals from South Africa, particularly Cape Town where almost all the shooting is done. And I really liked that, sort of, because it meant that Homi Adajania didn’t get carried away showing us all these awesome tourist locations in these two cities. Some nice set visuals here and there and the story keeps moving on, without changing it’s pace.

I didn’t like Homi’s directorial debut, Being Cyrus, but I definitely like Cocktail and I hope that he can take the extreme success of the movie on-board and come up with another great outing for next time.

The movie definitely has a thumbs-up from me. I loved it, start to finish.

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Posted on February 22, 2014, in Movie Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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