Vodka Diaries Review: A murder mystery that tries too hard to confound
The film helps you extract only so much. For something truly great and mind-bending, you need more potent stuff.
In the very first scene we see ACP Ashwini Dixit (Kay Kay Menon) running aimlessly, rolling over snow, alternating between flat, paved roads and snowy mountainous terrain. Then he arrives at a hotel, calm, breath enough in reserves, and walks in flashing his ID card. It makes us wonder why. Why did he not make use of a modern technology like a vehicle? Is this supposed to be the hero's dramatic entry? All of this sounds laboured, but Kushal Srivastava's Vodka Diaries is a film through the course of which you'll ask why several times. Why is he here? Why is she still alive? Why is he sweating in snowing Manali? Why does the world exist? Why does this film exist? Later in the film, Dixit again is perplexed by something and stops traffic. People yell at him to move but he's helpless. And then you wonder maybe this is why he chooses his two legs over wheels.
Director: Kushal Srivastava
Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Raima Sen, Mandira Bedi
As it turns out, the film jumps between timelines. We get answers later. In between we have Shikha (Mandira Bedi once again as the wife of a detective after last year's Ittefaq) reciting bad poetry and Roshni (Raima Sen) doing...I don't know what she is doing here. It's unimportant what Sen is up to in the film. But Vodka Diaries is the kind of film that would have been rewarding had it not tried to tie everything up neatly. It could have left us with some of those whys lingering, hanging like one of the dead bodies Dixit finds. The craziness is almost Lynchian that Srivastava could have confounded us further. We get a hallucination within a hallucination. Or there may have been three levels, I lost track. Dixit keeps chugging vodka and wakes up in different places. In one of those levels, he walks out of his bedroom door and steps into the snow outside with just a frame behind him and a king size bed in front, just laid out on snow with a stream nearby. There is even a secured room in the end that looks dystopian, a room that stretches to lengths but compact in its width, with a chair and an apparatus for intravenous fluids. But Srivasatava doesn't do anything with these images. He plays them out too straight. Vodka probably helps you extract only so much. For something truly great and mind-bending, you need more potent stuff. The stuff that, as a character in Vodka Diaries says, takes you to doosriduniya (another world).