Cocktail: Film Review

Glossy Bollywood romantic comedy hides a regressive message.

It is ironic to see an Indian film that offers such a rare substantial female role set the message of female empowerment back by 50 years.


EMERYVILLE, Calif. — One should leave a trifle like Cocktail with a warm, fuzzy feeling and not a perplexed unease. But the message hidden in this supposedly hip, post-millennial romantic comedy is decidedly an uncool one: that it’s not the worldly, wanton party girl but instead the virtuous, old-fashioned Indian virgin who wins in the end.

Cocktail also has a whiff of a vanity project, as Saif Ali Khan, whose Illuminati Films produced the film, is cast as the irresistible object of both women’s affections.

The London-set urban love triangle faces stiff competition from the family comedy Bol Bachchan, but ought to draw a healthy audience of date-night couples whose enjoyment is assured as long as they don’t think too much about what Cocktail means for the fairer sex.

Veronica (Deepika Padukone), Meera (model Diana Penty in her feature debut) and Gautam (Khan) are Indian expatriates sharing a luxury flat. While Veronica and Gautam seem to be a perfect couple — in it for the casual sex with no strings attached — Meera is more old-fashioned, a simple Delhi girl in traditional salwar kameez. “I can hear the sitars around you,” jests Veronica when she first meets the shy Meera.

Their unconventional friendship and living arrangement seem like a pretty good deal, until Gautam’s mother (vibrant Dimple Kapadia) shows up with a demand that Gautam get married and settle down.

The three pals concoct a harmless trick to let Gautam’s mom believe that Gautam is set on marrying the chaste Meera, but over time Gautam and Meera develop feelings for each other, sending Veronica into a self-destructive tailspin.

It is ironic to see an Indian film that offers such a rare substantial female role as that of party girl Veronica — performed by towering screen goddess Padukone — set the message of female empowerment back by 50 years. Yet that is what Cocktail does: shapely Veronica’s seeming independence, slammin’ social life and mind-boggling designer wardrobe are only a veneer to disguise her loneliness. At its core, Cocktail plays things safe.

The supporting cast, which includes heavy hitters like Boman Irani and Randeep Hooda, is excellent, as are Salim-Suleiman’s background score and Pritam Chakraborty’s songs, a modern mix of Pakistani and Punjabi sounds with dance club electronica.

The real star of the film is Padukone (Om Shanti Om), who is captivating in a risky role. One wishes that writer Imtiaz Ali (Rockstar) and director Homi Adajania had been risky enough to add more of a kick to this watery Cocktail.


Opened: July 13, 2012

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Diana Penty, Boman Irani, Randeep Hooda, Dimple Kapadia, Tena Desae

Director: Homi Adajania

Screenwriter: Imtiaz Ali

Producers: Saif Ali Khan, Dinesh Vijan, Sunil A. Lulla, Andrew Heffernan

Director of photography: Anil Mehta

Choreography: Bosco Martis, Ashley Lobo

Costume designer: Anaita Shroff Adajania

Editor: Sreekar Prasad

Music: Pritam Chakraborty, Salim-Suleiman

Not rated, 146 minutes