The Vodka Diaries trailer intrigued me. Kay Kay Menon has starred in atleast 2 very good thrillers in the past (Rahasya and The Stoneman Murders) that I loved. I was hoping that Vodka Diaries would tread a similar path but it turned out to be a remake of one of the seminal masterpiece of Hollywood, Shutter Island by Martin Scorsese. While it must be admitted that it has been tapered down quite a few notches to make it more accessible to the Indian masses, it still has its roots firmly set in the source material.
The story revolves around a club called “Vodka Diaries” in Manali where a series of murders happen over a night. ACP Ashwini Dixit (Kay Kay Menon) is called in to solve the case. As he tries to track down the murderer, he is baffled by events that’s make no sense.
Comparisons will definitely be made between this film and Shutter Island and that is obvious reasons. This film will make two very distinct and different impacts on people who have seen the original and who have not. While those who haven’t seen the Hollywood version may love this film and be sweetly surprised by its ending, people who have seen Shutter Island will be disappointed by the tapered down approach that the director takes.
I have seen Shutter Island and hence from the get go, I knew which way the film was headed. All I was waiting for was whether the director was able to add any novelty to the story or the treatment. It’s difficult to top Scorsese’s work and that is proved once again here. What I was not expecting was for this film to be so dreary and monotonic. There is very little in terms of high drama and its follows a very generic and somber path to its ultimate culmination. Apart from Kay Kay Menon, no other actor leaves any mark. The film is edited and presented in a manner that is not apt at many junctures. It leaves a lot of gaping holes from the get go.
It would have worked better had the film been shown totally from the perspective of Kay Kay Menon’s character but more than once, the director takes the liberty to show sequences that are not from his perspective and hence when we reach the climax we are confused and underwhelmed. There is a sequence in the club involving Raima Sen’s character which Ashwin never got to witness firsthand. Later when her true identity is revealed that whole sequence becomes a big joke.
The film also shows Ashwin hallucinating time and again which feels out of place. This also gives an easy indication for the final plot twist. In Scorsese’s film, DiCaprio’s character remain true to the viewer till the final exposition is made and that is also why it is so shocking. In this film you have no such jolt. However, these flaws will apply mostly to people who have seen the original. The people who haven’t may still take the story and screenplay for what it is and that will only help them to enjoy the film.
Kay Kay is brilliant. He almost singlehandedly pulls off the film and this wouldn’t be the first time that he has done so. Whenever he was onscreen I was hooked and riveted by his act. I wonder what he could have done had the script and the execution been a few notches better. Raima Sen is ok but her act stuck out of the lot like a sore thumb. It also didn’t help that her character was not well written and whatever she tells Ashwin in the climax didn’t make complete sense. Mandira Bedi is fine but you never for a second take her to be a real person. From the very first dialog, I knew she was not for real primarily because of the pristine manner of presentation of her character. That wasn’t a good thing for the film.
Vodka Diaries had a lot of potential from a content perspective but it faltered in the execution. While Kay Kay was brilliant, the rest of the cast was not. The film left a lot of gaping holes and couldn’t provide a satisfactory ending, at-least not for those who have seen the original. Having said all that, it is not a run of the mills thriller and people who haven’t seen the original may still find some merit in this one.
Rating : 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)