Review : Cocktail is Kuch Kuch Hota Hai revisited

Cocktail is Kuch Kuch Hota Hai revisited. Regressive messages are most dangerous when they sport a veneer of liberalism, and KKHH is a classic among such films. Karan Johar’s highly entertaining, well-packaged debut film put up the façade with Rani’s little skirts and the Western designerwear crowding those college corridors. Beneath the gloss though, KKHH had a very clear point to make: that unless a woman conforms to the accepted definition of femininity, the man she loves will never realise he loves her. Or, more literally: ladies, you will lose the man who loves you unless you lose to him in basketball while wearing a sari. Ishaqzaade just recently put up a similar pretence of being forward-thinking with its gun-toting, abusive heroine. When push came to shove though, she simply rolled over and panted like a pet puppy for her man.

Cocktail reveals its true colours post-interval. It also becomes dull. In one sentence: it’s got a breezy, funny first half in which a promiscuous man and a promiscuous woman are viewed through equally – yes, equally – non-judgmental eyes; and a mostly rona-dhona second half in which the woman is reduced to a conformist who made me cringe.

The story revolves around London-based Gautam (Saif Ali Khan), an incorrigible womaniser who targets any human female below a certain age. One of them is the ultra-desi Meera who has come to London to be with her husband (Randeep Hooda). Hubby turns out to be a scumbag who married her in India for her money but rejects her when she lands at his doorstep. Meera bumps into the ultra-non-desi Veronica (Deepika Padukone), a man-iser (if there is such a word) who could give Gautam a run for his money. Veronica takes Meera into her home and they become best friends. As fate would have it, shortly afterwards she also takes Gautam into her bedroom and they become live-in companions much to the discomfort of Meera who does not like him.

Sexually philandering men have always been the subject of comedy in Bollywood. Look no further than No Entry, Garam Masala and Housefull for examples. What makes Cocktail seem unusual is that it also gives us a philandering heroine but handles her too with a sense of humour … in the first half that is. When interval time strikes, she crumbles into a bundle of nerves and misery, desperate for the things women are expected to crave – salwar kameezes, marriage, the works – while the man remains a cool dude even when he falls in love, I suppose because that fits the film maker’s image of neurotic, frustrated spinsters and happy-go-lucky bachelors.

It’s possible that most audience members will not share my feminist concerns. However, it would concern everyone, I suspect, that the pacy first half of Cocktail with catchy, appropriately-placed songs gives way to a slowing-moving second half that almost completely loses its sense of fun and is filled with just too many boring songs! Worse, the dramatic transformation in each character’s emotions and behaviour is so sudden as to be almost inexplicable. Some of the Hinglish dialogues sound a tad unnatural and suspiciously like they are trying hard to be ‘cool’.

Deepika plays her part with elan in the pre-interval portion but can’t quite carry off the subtleties required of her in the later, more complex scenes. She looks stunning throughout, of course … Oh god, how does she maintain that waist?!!! Diana Penty has been well cast not only because she pulls off the staid, composed Meera, but also because she’s a looker to match Ms Padukone and actually resembles her to the point that they could play sisters in a film some day. The one who has the toughest part in Cocktail though is Saif whose Gautam could so easily have gone unbearably over the top … he comes across as being rather bizarre in his womanising methods at first, but I found myself gradually drawn to his crazy character. The high point of his performance – and of the film – has got to be the hilarious scene in which Gautam’s mother (Dimple Kapadia) meets Veronica and Meera with him for the first time. That’s the scene in which good direction, good writing, good acting and good casting all come together.

Director Homi Adajania has much to explain though. Why did he pace the second half of the film so differently from the first? Does he think sexual promiscuity is the only sign of a ‘liberal’ woman? Isn’t self-assurance the mark of true liberalism? Why did he chicken out in his portrayal of Veronica as the story progressed? Why does the film specify that Gautam is 32 years old? C’mon, I love Saif’s acting, but the actor doesn’t look a day below his 41 years; his real age is further emphasised in Cocktail by the fact that his two leading ladies are gloriously smooth-skinned, slim-waisted 20-somethings; and I can’t for the life of me understand why it’s so hard to cast a mainstream Hindi film hero as a character who is the same age as the actor is in real life! Saif is not alone in this. In the recent Agneepath, for instance, 38-year-old Hrithik was playing a Vijay Dinanath Chauhan who is supposedly in his late 20s! One more question for the team of Cocktail: did the heroine in tiny skirts, who smokes, drinks, consumes drugs and sleeps around have to be a Christian Veronica while the ‘good’ desi girl wearing long skirts and long-sleeved tops is a Hindu Meera? Hasn’t Hindi cinema evolved beyond this ridiculous stereotype that ruled the 1950s-80s? Or has it not?

Well, that’s Cocktail for you … bubbly in the first half, boring in the second, pretending to be free-thinking but actually narrow-minded and stereotypical to the core.

Rating (out of five): **1/2

  1. Baba Ji 12 years ago

    Echoes all my sentiments for such films.

    • sputnik 12 years ago

      I have read lot of Anna’s reviews. Initially I liked her reviews but I don’t like them anymore because she is always harping on feminist things. I have not seen Cocktail so I wont comment on it.

      Now she is talking about Veronica being Chrstian. One can rake up lot of issues (some real and some made up) based on Hindus/Muslims/Sikhs.

      I did not like KKHH and I think it is a cheesy movie but I don’t like this over analyzing and reading too much into everything.

      Kajol’s character was that of a Tomboy and she is SRK’s friend and he does not look/think of her in that way. Even in DTPH when SRK barges into Karisma’s bedroom while she is changing Karisma says “ladki ki kamre me aane se pahle knock karke aana chahiye” and he replies “Ladki, yahan kaun si ladki hai”? So later on when he sees Kajol as a woman he realizes he never looked at her in that way.

      Before KHHH and DTPH which other Hindi movie showed a boy and a girl being best friends or buddies? It was very progressive for its times.

      What is up with this feminist nonsense? Does anyone say DCH is regressive? Because Aamir’s character changes from being a guy who does not believe in love to a guy who proposes in front of everyone. Why can’t he move on?

      Just because two people are showing having casual sex it is progressive? Actually I have problem with these so called cool people in movies because they are so unrealistic – Movies which show the Indian guy living abroad and sleeping around with all women.

      Any drama needs to have a conflict or some character graph to make it interesting unless it is a total comedy. If there is no obstacle and everything is easy then what’s the point of the movie.

      • Baba Ji 12 years ago

        She is not wrong about the christian is a bad stereotype,just like the ghettoisation of muslims in hindi films and so on.In salmans Garv ,arbaaz khan has a ridiculous line ” main woh musalmaan inspector hun jo apne desh ke liye kurbaan ho jaun”. WTH does line like these mean?

        Also notice how a Indian herione can talk “bold” only when she is drunk! not otherwise. 😀

        I think srk-karishma relation in dtph was fine but not kkhh.srk never cared for the tomboy kajol but fell for the same girl when she is dressed a certain way that he likes.It is a highly sexist stance to have.

        I never liked DCH climax.

        • sputnik 12 years ago

          In KKHH SRK meets Kajol after what 8 years? She was a Tomboy in college but one cannot expect she will be like that 8 years later too. SRK was also dressed in tights during college and he was not 8 years later.

          I cannot tolerate KKHH – it is so cheesy and so bad. Now that basketball scene where she loses to him wearing a saree – I dont think you can play basketball in saree and secondly he wins by cheating and they both are cheating.

          Jodhaa Akbar had Akbar winning against Jodhaa by cheating too. So what should be made of it? That Akbar the King who ruled India could not even won sword fight against a woman?

          I can also say that beneath the veneer of secularism Jodhaa Akbar is nothing but a Hindu rewite of Akbar’s story. Almost all Muslims in Jodhaa Akbar are barbarians while the Hindus are all good people. Even Sonu Sood’s character is brainwashed by the bad Muslim guy. There’s no way that Akbar married a Hindu woman in the 1500s without converting her to Islam at least technically but Ashutosh shows that she demanded that she will remain Hindu. Jodhaa is given too much importance and it is implied that Akbar became a secular ruler because of Jodhaa. Why cannot Akbar be genuinely secular?

          I have not seen BKB but wasn’t Deepika a Muslim in that and she was shown drinking in it. Now its not a Muslim stereotype but some Muslims can make a issue out of it because she was shown drinking.

          More than a Christian stereotype it is a Deepika stereotype – as you yourself wrote the article about she drinks in almost every movie 😉

          Why does the Muslim character in an Indian movie have to constantly prove his patriotism (Sarfarosh, CDI, Khakee)? In Sholay A.K. Hangal says I will ask why I did not have more sons to sacrifice? Its not even a country that his son has died for. Manmohan Desai movies had Muslim stereotypes (Qawwal in AAA, Coolie). Old Hindi movies have a token Muslim character who is patriotic and helps the hero.

          • Baba Ji 12 years ago

            I agree with all that you said.In JA i think ashutosh tried tobalance things as he showed some muslims evil but he also showed how weak the hindu kings were.Hindu king offers akbar to marry his daughter fearing a war.Mughals were glorified,shown stronger force,better strategists while hindu kings were shown weaklings who fight amongst themselves.

            I dont think anyone objected to Deepikas religion in BKB.yes as u said it had more to do with deepika’s stereotyped image more than anything.coud be true for even cocktail.But making her veronica was not required,she wud have been passable even as a hindu.Her on screen slutty image is overwhelming,Ppl dont look what religion she belongs too when she is in chaddis. 😀

  2. sputnik 12 years ago

    Saif’s interview on criticism of Cocktail.

    “Cocktail is not a great film but a charming film.” As always Saif Ali Khan retains his sanity in success. The film has conjured up good numbers at the box office giving Saif a well-deserved hit after a series of strong performances in not-so-powerful films. Saif says he was not the first choice for the role of Gautam. “I was producing it but as an actor I made a last minute entry into the film as after playing some dark characters in Kurbaan, Aarakshan and Agent Vinod I wanted to be part of something light-hearted. What impressed me about Gautam was that the guy has a dodgy morality as he tries to jump from one girl to another in the same house, but he is innocent enough to feel that everything will be sorted out if he will share his change of heart openly.”

    Saif knows that most people have found the second half quite predictable. “It is very difficult to find a perfect screenplay.” True. In fact Gautam predicts the predictability of ensuing problems in the film. “Dialogues are the USP of the film. We made the story we got. As a producer I don’t interfere but I did ask and was told we are making a love story and not a thriller!” he laughs. But in the process Veronica’s boldness is reduced to a superficial level. After all the audacity of breaking the mould of Hindi film heroine, her ultimate aim remains to be married and conform to what is considered normal. “That there is life without marriage for a career woman is still a very niche thought and doesn’t suit a commercial story. Veronica doesn’t know what family bonds mean, what they can do and when she gets an experience she likes to be part of the process. Even from the societal point of view it is nice to be bold and wild at 20, but when you turn 40 or 50 you do need somebody.”

    Unlike Agent Vinod, this time the promotion was carefully carved out and promised what the film was going to deliver. Saif agrees Agent Vinod’s promos, which presented him as a lot more colourful guy than he actually turned out to be, were a bit misleading but as a film he stands by the vision of director Sriram Raghavan. “It gave me my career’s biggest opening but we knew from the beginning we are not pandering to popular sentiments. In this business sometimes you win, sometimes you lose but you need to be true to your bread and butter…One day I might return as a secret agent.”

    By Bollywood standards he is not that old but in close ups the number 40 creeps up in mind. “I am not old by Hollywood standards either. I am younger than Johnny Depp and Tom Cruise. I agree I need to be bit leaner and fitter but I totally identify with the character. I feel as young at heart as Gautam. And my mother (Sharmila Tagore) said if you take out any one of the three, the cocktail will lose its impact. She felt that age does show in a few scenes but it adds to the quirkiness of Gautam. That he is aging but is not able to decide. How is that for an argument?”

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