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Cocktail takes you back, not up

July 29, 2012

If you need to indulge in some pure, mindless popcorn fun then Cocktail is the film you want to see. The light-hearted banter, humour, vivid colours of Cape Town and at least two of the three lead actors create an enjoyable premise for a film that is takes its strength in being picture perfect. The fashion is fun, the figures are perfect, the locales are picturesque and the songs are melodic and hip.

But before you get your expectations too high, beware that Cocktail is no Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Far from it, it’s a film riddled with stereotypes and formulas. Cocktail is as deep as a puddle and just as predictable too. You’ll get your feet wet if you step into it, but you won’t get blown away as you would with a gust of the monsoon torrents.

Looking as desi as it gets — the Punjabi suit, cardigan, long-braided hair and gold jhumkas intact — Meera (Diana Penty) arrives in London and walks straight into a hoax marriage. Lost in an unknown city, she finds a friend in the wild child Veronica (Deepika Padukone) who takes her under her wing and roof. Gautum (Saif Ali Khan) is a software engineer and the in-house Casanova who wears his heart on his sleeve. If you feel you’ve seen his character in Love Aaj Kal, Salaam Namaste and to some extent even Hum Tum then you wouldn’t be wrong. There has been a bit of Khan’s playboy cliché in almost all of his films, especially ones he’s co-produced and Cocktail is no different. However, after unsuccessfully trying his luck with Meera (because she is the ultimate sati savitri who won’t indulge in anything remotely immoral) he moves in with Veronica who has no inhibitions whatsoever. It has to be said that Deepika Padukone delivers the strongest performance in the film.

Gautum’s mother triggers a lie. She wants him to settle down and he, to brush off the pressure, says he’s already committed to Meera who is every mother’s dream bahu. The situation complicates when Kavita Kapoor (a gorgeous Dimple Kapadia) lands in London and insists on meeting the girl. Boman Irani, as the nutty, unscrupulous yet lovable Uncle steps into a role that we’re all to used to seeing Anupam Kher in. As expected, lies are woven to keep the pretense alive and the inevitable happens: Veronica genuinely falls for Gautum, Gautum falls in love with Meera and Meera, to honour her friendship over her love, walks away. The perfect Hindi film love triangle.

Cocktail remains skin deep at best but then it is that very skin that attracts you and entertains you in the first place. In the rigmarole of 21st Century fast-paced life we, the audience, have changed. We seem to have lost the patience for films that have moral value, depth and even intellect. We don’t seem to be looking for good storytelling or dialogues anymore, content with slapstick comedy and lyrics that aimlessly flirt with women with no surnames: Munni, Sheila, Channo, Jalebi Bai and Anarkali. Need I say more?

Don’t judge a book by its cover? That’s all we have time to do anymore because we’re not looking for classics, we’re looking for comics. Movies that are merely time passers, flings and summer romances instead of life-long loves. As a summer romance, Cocktail whips up the perfect perfunctory buzz, but nothing more. It’s a film you watch for the visual delight and then forget before the weather starts to change.

If only it had ended different One can’t help thinking how refreshing and progressive (or simply different) Cocktail would have been had Gautum actually fallen for Veronica instead of Meera. It would have been unique (and natural) had to he chosen to stay in the fast lane with a girl he had so much in common with, instead of slowing down to smell the roses (and tulips and peonies and jasmines) with a girl no modern man, let alone he, could ever relate to.

Let’s face facts: men are changing and while they still have double standards when it comes to girlfriends and wives, not all hip and happening men want the puritanical goody two shoes for a partner. They have evolved a bit in the last decade, opting for companions that have a life of their own instead of just hanging on to theirs for a lifeline. So when Gautum says, “I dream I’ll come home, Meera will cook rotis,” he sounds like a hero from the ’70s, not the 21st Century. Let’s hope Saif Ali Khan isn’t expecting the good housewife from Kareena Kapoor!

When it comes to emancipation, Cocktail takes a nosedive in its clichéd ending. It leaves you disappointed, with a hangover instead of a high.