Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Mandira Bedi, Raima Sen, Sharib Hashmi
Director: Kushal Srivastava
The gorgeous snow laden landscape of Manali is the setting for Vodka Diaries, which starts out as a whodunit, quickly turns into a psychological thriller, before it finally reveals itself to be a waste of time.
Kay Kay Menon stars as local cop ACP Ashwini Dixit, who’s investigating multiple murders that have taken place over a single night and appear to be connected to a nightclub named Vodka Diaries. The deaths are gruesome, but the victims are barely-etched characters whom we meet fleetingly at best, never long enough to know or especially care for. Things get murkier when Dixit’s wife goes missing, and the line between reality and imagination begins to blur.
It’s a curious premise, but co-writer/director Kushal Srivastava struggles with tone and pacing from the start. Dixit’s relationship with his wife Shikha (Mandira Bedi) is established through ‘cutesy’ scenes in which they go over her frankly corny poetry and he manages to find crime references in them. The humor too is often badly timed and frequently misses its mark. Sharib Hashmi, who was so good in Filmistan, is cast as Dixit’s jocular deputy, but he’s saddled with cheesy one-liners that seldom land. Raima Sen plays a mysterious woman who pops up now and then, seemingly to help Dixit piece together the clues behind the strange turn of events.
As you may have guessed, not a lot works in this convoluted, far-fetched script. Before long Dixit, once the pursuer, is being chased across snowy expanses, and lurking in dark corners of the crowded city. Clues and red herrings are sprinkled along the way, yet the big reveal in the end is underwhelming because the film isn’t ultimately true to its own logic – it simply doesn’t add up.
Doesn’t help either that Kay Kay Menon delivers a performance that is pure ham and cheese. His outbursts are unintentional comedy of the highest order, and I found myself cringing as I watched this talented actor try desperately to make the material work.
If you do decide to watch the film, you'd do well to take a cue from the film’s title and go in comfortably inebriated to get through the brain scramble that it is. I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Vodka Diaries.
Rating: 1.5 / 5