A spoilt brat comes of age and wakes up to his responsibilities. Such stories have been done to death in films like Lakshya, parts of Dil Chahta hai, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane na, Kabhi Haan Kabhi naa. There are the usual cliches in all such films – the boy has other loser type friends who still manage to do better than him, there is parental conflict, and a girl is usually involved in the waking up process! These films target the youthful audience by showing the young lead and friends clubbing or generally having fun singing and dancing, and of course the outcome is usually very predictable. The brat wakes up and becomes an upright citizen so he can win the love of his lady.
Why then should one watch Wake up Sid? Does it break any new ground, thematically or cinematically? Is it more of the same from Dharma Productions, the usual sanitized pretty locales, lots of glamor and glitz and much choreographed dancing? I caught Wake Up Sid in the second weekend after hearing some of the buzz around the film. The leading man is 27 years and three films old, and I happen to like him quite a bit. What is shocking is that the director is a 25 year old debutant. A search reveals that Ayan Mukherjee was one of the screenplay writers for Swades, a favorite of mine, and has written the story and screenplay of WUS, in addition to directing it. There is the wondrous Konkona Sen Sharma in a lead role and some of the music (particularly Iktara) is divine. So what exactly did Sid serve up?
Sid took me back to the days when we were growing up, trying hard to stay awake and study after lots of time wasted all day, of constant battles with parents on each and every issue, of the days when one thought one knew way more than the parental units did, when life was aimless and goal-less and FUN, when pranks and practical jokes were daily occurrences, and yet in the end to the days when it was important to succeed at exams JUST to keep up with friends and to save face. If anyone did not grow up doing all this, I can guarantee that they had a sibling who was a “bad seed” and exactly like Sid! Yes Sid was a RICH brat, but every trial and travail one could identify with (except the shopping on Dad’s credit card bit!). A job in Dad’s company was offered but rejected, and a final jab of ridicule at mom was the watershed moment in Sid’s life.
Without much melodrama he was thrown a challenge and decided to leave the comforts of home. The credit card was quietly canceled, and the only place to go was not the bosom buddies who had succeeded where Sid failed, but a new acquaintance who was also new to the city. These were the moments in which WUS began to solidify its place as a good film. There were emotions, but the real way in which interactions were portrayed, and the lack of Ekta Kapoor serial type dramatization of situations, left an impact on this viewer. Anupam Kher had played the Dad umpteen times, but never as effectively with quiet pain and authority as this time around. And Supriya Pathak was the quintessential doting mother, with unquestioning love that only a mother can have. So Sid ended up at the apartment of Aisha, a newbie to Mumbai. he showed her Mumbai and slowly a love, for the city that was once scary and the man who was once an irresponsible boy, developed.
Joseph Campbell once advised people to follow their bliss. In very practical terms I took it to mean that if you do what you really want to do, all else will right itself in your life. So Sid followed his bliss which was best viewed for him through the lens of the camera, and he began to wake up and grow up.
Throughout the film Ayan Mukherjee shows an attention to detail that is incredible. This is a slice of real life, delightful in how evocative it is and how many memories it brings back. Not just the situations but the sets and clothing and above all the youthfulness of the characters is most appropriate. Ranbir was born to play Sid, and his friends are like my college friends. The chubby friend who is constantly beginning a diet is particularly effective. These people have real life fears and desires, and above all they are students who study – not in the what is Pyaar (Archana Puran Singh in KKHH) way, but really, and care about the outcome of their studies, as this is LIFE. Koko has a simple role to play here, that of a self assured girl who is confronted with self doubt at one point. She waltzes through the role with ease and charms us in the process. Rahul Khanna plays the usual loser, but this is a huge improvement on his role in the recent LAK. If I were to pick one point that I did not like in WUS, it would be this character and played by this man.
The film has no lip sync signing (except the obligatory credit roll) and the songs are well placed situationally and do not interrupt the narrative at all. Iktara is divine and well used. The background music (Amit Trivedi?) deserves special mention, and I hope it will be released separately. There are moments that are simply beautiful – Ranbir sticking his head out to capture the first drops of monsoon rain coming down, and we cut to Koko sticking her head out of a taxi to do the same! I think WUS is close to the top among my favorites this year (Gulaal may still be more impactful, even with the messy ending, and there is Kaminey for sheer fun). Ayan Mukherjee makes a wonderful directorial debut and hopefully shows the way to Dharma productions – this is how the modern metro-centric films should be made.