Dir: Homi Adajania. Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Diana Penty, Boman Irani, Dimple Kapadia.
Cocktail dangles before its audience the prospect of seeing three leads in a living arrangement that’s best described by a phrase that begins with “ménage” and ends with “trois”. It’s never happened before, but if it had to, it would probably be in the year with the film about the sperm donor, and the other one with the catchphrase “keh ke loonga”. One might reasonably expect, in this bold new age of Hindi cinema, a man and two women to live under the same roof, and share and share alike.
Cocktail certainly starts mixing it up quickly. Gautam (Saif Ali Khan) hits on Meera (Diana Penty) at the London airport, unaware that she’s married. A few minutes later, she isn’t – her new husband Kunal (Randeep Hooda) leaves her to fend for herself, citing plot exigencies. She goes to the restroom for a good cry, where she meets Veronica (Deepika Padukone), who invites her to stay in her flat. This is accomplished in roughly ten minutes. It takes another ten for the two women to spot Gautam, play a prank on him, bump into him again at a party (apparently Indians in London keep crossing paths), and for Veronica and Gautam to hook up. Gautam ends up moving in with them, and though Meera hates his guts, one can’t help feeling that a home-grown Jules and Jim might be on the cards.
A predictable surprise visit by Gautam’s mother (Dimple Kapadia) has him lying about his plans to marry Meera. Surprisingly, Meera goes along with this charade; Veronica, amused by their predicament, has no problems either. The quartet, plus Gautam’s sympathetic uncle (Boman Irani), repair to Cape Town, where things get nicely out of hand when Gautam and Meera fall for each other. This is the point at which the film needed to decide whether it would take the road hinted at, or the road well-travelled. Disappointingly, it opts for the latter. Veronica is informed that she’s the third wheel now – she’s fine with that, but only until she breaks down in a club in the next scene. Meera, upset for having come between them, leaves Gautam, Veronica and the flat, and disappears. The rest is contrivance, tears, a diluted version of the mesmeric Coke Studio Pakistan track “Jugni”, and a trip back home.
Those who remember Adajania’s first film, 2006’s Being Cyrus, will be struck by how different Cocktail is. Cyrus was dank, claustrophobic, cynical; Cocktail, for a while at least, is sunny and sensuous. Khan plays yet another wisecracking, shallow, essentially harmless flirt, but no one can sell a bad joke like he can. Padukone looks supremely relaxed in the first half as the straight-shooting, pants-shunning Veronica, while debutante Penty manages to keep Meera from becoming a sacrificing bore. Adajania and veteran editor Sreekar Prasad, working from a screenplay by Imtiaz Ali and Sajid Ali, keep things zipping along, even though after a point they don’t go anywhere we haven’t been before.
A version of this review appeared in Time Out Delhi.