Apex’s thoughts- From ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ to ‘Cocktail’ –the ‘menage-a- trois’ Bollywood conundrum

Vicky-Cristina-Barcelona-Penelope-penelope-cruz-4121526-900-600

cocktail

 

I have liked both these flicks a lot but let me clarify that neither of them is very ‘significant’ or ‘great’. Infact neither of them are even worthy of lengthy debates and dissection of minutiae. What did catch my attention is the way Cocktail got misinterpreted, dissed and maligned without even being given a chance. Of course, Vicky Christina Barcelona (VCB) wasn’t exactly the same film (though similar and some would be indignified at this comparison), but VCB was spared a similar plight because of the names associated with it ( Woody Allen) and the unmistakable ‘subservience’ of Bollywood commentators about most Hollywood products especially the one with big names. I may come to VCB separately in a different post maybe (if mood permits), but lets tackle the Bollywood variant/manifestation called Cocktail directed by Homi Adjania, co-written and produced by Imtiaz Ali.

What will happen if Woody allen makes a film for Bollywood audience and sensibilities? Not sure of the product but am sure of the result—‘failure’ on the box office front (the same critics who laugh at cocktail may be more lenient there though).
Cocktail brings together some very interesting influences and to appreciate this, it is important to get down from the ‘intellectual high-horses’ and exit atleast briefly the domains of pseudo-intellectual ghettos one finds peace and reassurance in!
Even within this much-maligned ‘rom-com’ llght genre, it is much easier to defend a VCB than a Cocktail! So expectedly, I shall choose the more difficult job. Infact, most will even find this comparison to Allen ‘misplaced’ or even ‘outrageous’. I am aware that some of the readers who requested me to write this are not aware of the conventional ‘Bollywood traditions’. To understand the nuances, to the uninitiated, a prelude of the influences that go into this film—

Vicky Christina Barcelona-Woody Allen

 

Being Cyrus-Homi Adjania/ Saif Ali Khan


Rockstar- Imtiaz Ali/ AR Rahman


The Karan johar/ Yashraj world -now this was the most sly and unintentional influence that seems to have seeped in since no current movie of this genre in Bollywood worth its salt can deny/shrug this off (apparently).

 

Commentary rather than a ‘review’

I never write ‘reviews’ that go through a structure, introduction, plot glimpses, spoiler warnings and ratings etc. There are many cineastes to do that regularly and in immaculately structured pieces. Mine are more like ‘commentaries’ on trends and mis/perceptions. A the risk of sounding preposterous & arrogant, mine are ‘reviews of reviews!” . The question arises as to who gave me the right to wirte a ‘review on reviews’ (By definition these are ‘invited commentaries’ (as in scientific journals).. My answer is the same person /media space that gave the ‘right’ to any tom dick and harry aka self styled reviewer to rip apart any film after only a partial viewing or even on the basis of a whim or quirk or bias!
Brief synopsis
Saif Ali khan (Gautum) is a harmless compulsive flirt / wannabe banker Casanova in London who encounters Deepika Padukone (Veronica) and Diana Penty (Meera). Whilst the former inhabits the ‘slut’ space (in conventional terms), the latter is the ‘virginal’ homely one.
Mitigating Factors in this ‘confusion’-The strengths and weaknesses lie therein.

Audience/Reviewers mistakes-

Whilst these are used as plot devices and starting points, the audience latches onto these ‘tags’, get hung up and refuse to let go of these emotional ‘affiliations’ with those respective ‘characters’ (or lack of it!) .
The problem here lies with the audience and eventually with the reviewer. They transpose their own
• Moral/ethical value-set onto the plot
• Exhibit a ‘desperation’/hurry to create ‘Labels’
• And tendency to pass judgements
• And get distracted (by costumes/ bikinis etc)
Film-makers mistakes-
The film starts well but gets somewhat jumbled up towards the second half. Creditably theres a lingering ‘discomfiture’ in the second half (as there should be in a ‘dilemma’).
One can see why this ending was taken though. In a previous outing by Imtiaz Ali, he was blamed for the unconventional ending in Rockstar and that was partly held responsible for the film not becoming a bigger hit than it eventually was. Remember, the ‘moral police’ can get activated in that part of the world (though it can remain silent on some other issues)

Problems audiences had with this film—

Women/ Girls—For any rom-com/chick-flick, this is the target segment that needs to join in a big way. But this whole ‘slut-virgin’ angle distracted and alienated many. Also it became a ‘who gets the guy contest’ which it wasn’t about at all. Even ‘emancipated’ gen-xers like some netizens on movie blogs totally misunderstood the film and went after this angle. Im sure the poor film makers had no such objective to bring out ‘moral awakening’ or endorse a particular type of sexual/moral behavior. But there you go—they offended a major segment.

The FACT is that most/all (hopefully) females/girls inhabit a space somewhere in between the Meera-Veronica interface—they may be closer to one than the other (and most are towards the Meera positon anyways!) So why should they be ‘offended’ even if Meera ends up ‘winning’(sic!) the guy . That’s the irony of it all because they don’t wanna be seen as Meera but obviously get violent if thought of as Veronica either. But hey, they also wanna be seen as disliking this ‘regressive’ ‘virgin gets the guy angle’. Anyways, I can go on and on but don’t wanna lose you (the reader) in my mental gymnastics.

The Guys—Well, guys are pigs, oh rather dogs!! I can safely say this being one myself. So what got them unhappy. They enjoyed the songs, the fun moments, the red bikini. But there was a part of those guys that was expecting a threesome-in-a –bed fantasy (that has been residing in their minds). But what did they get in the second half—some reality check and even some ‘awkward moments’ they didn’t wanna pay the price of the ticket for!

Performances

Deepika delivers the performance of her career that is the defining block on which the rest of her career will be built upon. Diana was an ex-model and for that, she was effective. Though clearly lacking in acting chops, she compensates for it by being sincere, malleable and ‘honest’ in her performance. I love Saif Ali Khan in these urbane roles, can identify with him and he can do these roles in his sleep. But this was clearly not his best performance. He was clearly not young enough to play this role but he managed somehow. Creditably, he stepped aside and let the girls take centrestage. At one stage, it started looking more a female-bonding film with enough ‘meat’ for both girls (pun also intended). Also liked both Boman Irani and Dimple Kapadia (who both were hilarious).
Box office outcome—
The film was a hit in the multiplexes both in the domestic and international circuits. I wont go into the minutiae but some can work over time to prove that this should have been a bigger hit than it was.

Music
I am a compulsive AR Rahman fan as far as Bollywood is concerned and music is an integral part of my movie-going expereince. So im not easy to please, but have to say that Preetams tunes here were effective and par- for-the-course. Infact some of them were v foot-tapping and had the required melancholic uneasy tinge amongst all the fun n frolick whilst capturing the inherent tone of the atmospherics.

Lovely guitar


Blogosphere Voices & Rants

I was about to go on and on about this but basically im a lazy person. Even the fifteen minutes, I have spent writing the above is too much –but hey you have people to articulate for you.
As mentioned earlier, there is no dearth of reviews tearing apart this film or pulling it down. So I take the opportunity to introduce two choicest reviews I thought best subscribe to my own views-

Dolce and Namaks thoughts—stumbled upon it when someone passed it on to me. Now All I wanna do is sit back and let her articulate many things I wanted to express but couldn’t –due to a mixture of inertia and plain laziness. Whilst I do not agree with everything she says (especially bout some ‘slut-virginal’ points) but she is more or less on the dot as far as Im concerned.
http://dolcenamak.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/in-defense-of-veronica-and-imtiaz.html

Also, I feel she adds some key points from a ‘female’ perspective that I may have knowingly/inadvertently missed. Some standout points, I thought—

Meera on the other hand is the hardest one to read. I think the key to her character is in a little scene when she is looking at Gautam and Veronica being lovey-dovey. She wants that, but because she’s so insecure she doesn’t really know how to get it. So when it comes to her in the form of a reformed Gautam, she falls for it against her better judgement. She almost falls for it because she doesn’t know any better and, just like Veronica, she craves that kind of affection without knowing where or how to get it. As Gautam so brilliantly puts it: “You’re lonely and I’m characterless.” Of course when the butterflies kick in all reason goes out the window, which reminds me that my favourite kind of criticism has been stuff like “She’s so dumb that she falls for him”. Uh… yeah… because you’ve never fallen for the wrong person despite knowing better. Because love has EVERYTHING to do with reason. Everything.

Sarcasm aside, did you ever notice that despite being such a “good girl” Meera never once judges Veronica for her loose ways? She has a couple of moments where she appeals to Veronica’s non-existent sense of decency (such as asking where her pants are), but she never attempts to change her. Same can be said for Gautam: she judges him initially and is proved wrong (in a scene that is played for laughs, but I think it’s pretty important), after which she concedes to get to know him and accepts him as Veronica’s boyfriend.

Generally speaking people’s capacity to accept each other for who they are, warts and everything, is what makes Cocktail stand out from the likes of Mujhse Dosti Karoge and other gems from the early 2000s. And what separates Gautam’s mother’s generation from this modern one. Yup, I said modern. Now sue me for defending such a “regressive”, “cliched” and “trite” movie.
Another review that covers most of the relevant points as I see them—this one is more from the male perspective. I address this writer as ‘uncle’ not only due to the ‘age difference’ but the insight and ‘wisdom’ he brings to the table on the basis of his experiences (and probably womanizing lol—jus joking!). http://satyamshot.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/utkal-on-cocktail/ An exerpt-

The triangle in Cocktail is interesting because all the three vertices have a fascinating relation with each other : Gautam-Veronica, Gautam-Meera, Meera-Veronica. And the behavior of all three once the triangle gets messy is sketched out with mastery detail and freshness, The Gautam-Meera passage from here on is a primer on the art of seduction. Meera is smart enough to know intuitively that being aggressive going to backfire as it will put her in the same lane as Veronica, and she cannot win on the home turf of the latter. So she waits for Gautam to make the first move and she waits till they are in a fresh territory, South Africa. The writing here is amazingly good, the best I have ever seen. When Gautam gives that big one about What Makes Meera Hot , ending his eulogy with ‘ Your smile is like a social service. Dekho kaise chaaro traf tensoion kam ho rahe hain” and Meera remarks, “ Hey you are good, no wonder tumse ladkiyan patti hian’, and Gautam replies that is pleased his own performance, but adds, the performance was so good because it was a natural one, meaning that , he meant what he said. This is subtle, courtship at its best. He tells Meera she should try it sometimes and then ads, ‘ But then you don’t need it. Tum par to aise hi log girte hain, idhar udhar’ . Meera senses that her moment has come. “ To tum kyon nahin girte?’ she says impishly and gives her a gentle shove. Standing in knee-deep water, Guatam says’ Lo gir gaya”. He has got his acceptance and they know now the passion burns equally on both sides, dono taraf aag barabar, and what remains is the final consummation, which happens during the rave party on the beach, preceded by the mating dance of Tum Hi Bandhu by Meera where she turns on her feminine charm full blast ,and the difference between her moves from that of Veronica should also be noted. AS I have pointed out , there is no guilt about the pre-marital sex or the extra-marital sex on Meera’s mind , quite contrary to the vies of those who are trying to a pointer as atypical ‘ Bharatiya Nari’. Even Meera lets out her secret to Veronica, when she says’ Galti ho gayi”. “ To galti kar chuki hai aap already’, Veronica snipes in.

To add-

Cinematography/Camerawork
was good and being fond of camera-work myself picked up some key moments. One was Diana leaving Deepikas home and both looking back crying through the car window & door glass. Another aerial shot capturing an inebriated Deepika in a night club capturing her ‘lonely in a crowd’ plight! And finally, another ace shot wherein a crying Diana rushes though a park and amongst all the humans there, looks into the eyes of a kid (since what else does a person helpless in love become –but a similarly helpless kid).

Finally-
“You are lonely and I am characterless!’-with this one line, Saifs character sets the tone and also underlines one of the many major modus operandis used in relationship dynamics in todays urbane milieu.
In my own personal view-Ideally, to be fair and impart ‘justice’ to this theme, the ending should have remained inconclusive or a tragedy…..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s