In the misty town of Manali, ACP Ashwini Dixit attempts to solve a series of mysterious murders happening in a single night, which might be connected to the night club, Vodka Diaries.
'Vodka Diaries': A Thriller unlike any other (Review By Subhash K Jha
; Rating: *** )
It isn't often that we get to see a suspense thriller that dares to go that extra mile in pursuit of some novelty in a genre that invariably relies on cliche for effect.
"Vodka Diaries" is high on pegs of pungent potshots taken at the suspense genre. It defies the ground rules laid down by the architects of the suspense genre (whoever they might be) and deconstructs the entire edifice of intrigue into a cat-and-mouse chase which culminates in a frightening psychological disorder.
The film opens with an impressive severe topshot of a distraught K.K. Menon running through the snow of what we soon come to know is Manali (a badge on a cop's shoulder mentions HP). It's a breathtaking shot and kudos to cinematographer Manish Chandra Bhatt. You suspect debutant director Kushal Shrivastava constructed the entire plot of suspicion and murder from this visually surcharged starting-point.
Luckily for the debutant director, and for us, the narrative suffers from no serious starter's hiccups. It gets involved in its own complexities without losing track of the myriad characters' motivations. The very talented K.K. Menon takes a bit of time to settle into the wheels-within-wheels that run through the narrative in scampering motions.He tends to over-do the intense yet ironic interpolations of the character. This is a problem, since Menon is to be found in every frame, dominating the proceedings even when sharing awkward romantic moments with Mandira Bedi. But Menon soon settles down to a distraught destiny set aside for his character.
Bedi, I might add, is an asset to any entertainment venue she is given to occupy. We just don't see enough of her. Not even in this film where she has a limited screen occupancy. And she makes the best of it.But after Menon, the actor with the best lines and moments is Sharib Hashmi. Last seen as the poor man's padman in "Phullu", Hashmi chews eagerly on every scene provided to him as Menon's sidekick.
Raima Sen, another beautiful and neglected actress, walks in and out of the proceedings as though shooting in bouts when on vacation. There are several such cameos in the plot. And I held my breath to see how the director Kushal Shrivastava and his writer Vaibhav Bajpai balance out the ostensible out-of-control plot about a cop who seem be losing control over the goings-on.
Luckily the director never loses the plot as he manoeuvres the tricky suspense through a maze of deception and delusion, on to a bumpy but safe landing.
"Vodka Diaries" is not a great suspense drama when compared with the Hitchcockian tradition. God knows, the genre has not been much explored in Bollywood. Still in its infancy the whodunit gets a rather likable shake-up on this occasion. "Vodka Diaries" stays true to the path of deception and betrayal that the suspense genre adapts and makes some sharp swings into the unexpected towards the end.
Do stay for the end credits to hear Rekha Bhardwaj and Ustad Rashid Khan crooning "Sakhi ri". It's a sobering send-off to a suspenseful and original journey.
'Vodka Diaries': A miserable downer (Review By Troy Ribeiro ; Rating:
"Vodka Diaries" conjures a visual of some intoxicating secrets. But alas, the title is a forced misnomer. In fact, it is a corny psychological drama that's mounted on an equally convoluted plot.
Crime and poetry are married in the form of ACP Ashwini Dixit (Kay Kay Menon) and an amateur poet Shikha (Mandira Bedi). They are holidaying together in picturesque Manali.
The setting makes for a perfect romantic break, except that the couple's holiday is punctuated with mysterious murders that need to be solved. While that's the impression one gets in the first act, the second act totally topples the first with the resurrection of the dead. And the third act turns out to be a redemption tale.
With writing credits given to four writers, the writing and execution of the film is its Waterloo. The dialogues are cheesy and the screenplay weak. The first 15 minutes of the narrative meanders with poetry and random conversation, except for an insert that informs us about a recurring nightmare that Ashwini gets.
What follows is, the murder of five people. Every death is linked to the shady hotel in a town called Vodka Diaries. And after the disappearance of Shikha, when Ashiwini visits the hotel, he finds the other victims present and you realise this film is more than a murder mystery.
The performances of every actor seems staged and tedious to watch. Talent is definitely wasted here.
Ace actors like Kay Kay Menon and Sharib Hashmi who plays Ashiwini's faithful lackey Ankit, are relegated to doing the mundane act, which they do with aplomb. But unfortunately it simply seems like they are sleepwalking through their roles. So are Mandira Bedi as Shikha and Raima Sen as the mysterious woman Roshni Banerjee, who later has a meaningful justification for her character.
Mounted with moderate production values, the production designs are appropriate and realistic. The visuals through Maneesh Chandra Bhatt's lens are clear and sharp but Aalaap Majgavkar's editing is a bit slack. The transitions in certain scenes are clumsily handled.
Harry Anand and Sandesh Shandilya's music and background score are exceedingly blaring and jarring.
Overall, "Vodka Diaries", which is supposed to be a layered tale, is a miserable downer.