You know that black screen with white lettering that appears before nearly every movie these days? The one that tells you that smoking and drinking is bad for you? Cocktail is the first one I’ve seen where, not only does it say there for a while, there’s actually a voice-over that reads it out. And twice, once at the beginning and again after the interval.

Just as well. Sobriety isn’t high on this film’s list of priorities. It would be unfair to say that the Deepika Padukone character drinks like a fish — that kind of quantity consumption is beyond the reach of most aquatic creatures except maybe blue whales. The Diana Penty character mostly looks like she could use a drink. The Saif Ali Khan character, I suspect, is drunk almost all of the time — there’s no way a sober person could come up with the lines he tries out on women. As for the women who fall for it, I suspect hard drugs, something not mentioned in the warning. The bedside table in the Randeep Hooda character’s apartment is essentially two beer crates stacked one on top of the other.

And here’s the surprising part. For all of that, the film isn’t the train wreck I feared it might be. The romance doesn’t really work (a fact that is highlighted by the easy chemistry between Saif and Deepika), but the plot gives Diana and Saif so little screen time together as a romantic couple that it isn’t as much of a problem. The melodramatic sequences aren’t too dragged out. And yes, there is a fair amount of humour — frankly, this is the only aspect of the film that works more often than it doesn’t.

The performances are quite okay. Saif does his shtick, and shows an admirable lack of restraint in a crucial scene involving Sheela Ki Jawaani. Towards the end, he has a scene where he is so magnificently inarticulate that it belongs in a much better movie. Diana Penty has a role that requires more accuracy than range, and manages not to mess up. Her standout moment, I think, is the one where she utters the word “Focus” in a crucial scene. Boman Irani and Dimple Kapadia play wonderfully off each other and the rest of the cast, although they have nearly nothing to do in general.

The surprise, to me, is Deepika Padukone. Hers is the only character that is written with a modicum of complexity. (Not much, mind you, but the rest of the characters might as well have come from Dr. Seuss in comparison.) There was a point in her career where she would’ve utterly butchered it, and taken the film down with her. This time around, she manages to keep it together.

Cocktail doesn’t aspire to be great art, nor does it aspire to be great trash (like, say Rowdy Rathore). It’s like one of those random concoctions you find in a bar menu and automatically ignore, with good reason. You could have a glass of it without wanting to throw up, but it’s no good if you want to get a nice buzz going.

ps: I hardly ever drink. I have an occasional glass of wine, and fall asleep promptly thereafter. So I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about in the analogy above.

pps: Not that this has ever stopped me in the past. If it did, this blog wouldn’t exist.

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