Wake Up Sid!
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Konkona Sensharma
Direction: Ayan Mukherjee
Rating: *** & 1/2
Sid’s short for Siddharth, of course. Like every Sandeep in this country is Sandy; Aditya, Adi; Sameer, Sam... You wonder why Indian parents don’t just give their children the eventually shortened names anyway.
Sid’s parents have had other pressing concerns to take care of; the son’s name is a minor one. The mother gave up formal education to raise family. Sometimes her poor access to English, she feels, disconnects her from her son. The father owns a successful company of bathroom furnishings; the sorts that make shower fittings etc. under the brand name ‘flower shower’. He worked his backside off to earn the wealth.
His is not some Bollywood “Singhania group of industries”; neither is the malik’s son the proverbial ‘aiyash’. It’s just that crunching numbers among replaceable cubicles and ‘suits’ of Mehra Furnishings is unlikely to be his preferred scene. Young, warm Sid (first charming, contemporary star-material in a while) drives the fastest car in college. Studies don’t bring him much joy. Professional ambitions remain immaterial to his present. I suppose you’ve met this boy before. His floating population makes for the ‘dhaba crowd’ at St Stephen’s in Delhi, or the guys around the ‘woods’ at St Xavier’s in Mumbai. I’m sure every city and its campuses have their own similar variants. They belong to an electronically updated youth that doesn’t drown itself in rebellion, self-righteousness or existentialist angst. We all believe too much of a good thing can’t be that bad. Some do forever as, I suppose, they should: “be present,” as it were.
The humiliation of failure in an exam is humiliation still, however carefree and pampered a child like Sid you may be (as is the case). It’s a label no one can live with. A near antithesis to Sid’s character is Aisha’s (Konkona Sensharma, effortlessly real as ever). She is fiercely independent, no one picks up after her, she moves on her own from Kolkata, picks up a small place in Bandra’s Chapel Road, finds herself a job in a local magazine, and a stake in a believable future. It’s a story of millions who move to Bombay (Oh Mumbai; sorry, Mr Thackeray) and make it India’s most exciting city.
Sid may not be Aisha’s type of guy. She prefers men to boys, here, the magazine editor (Rahul Khanna), who loves Jazz, and thinks her fondness for old Hindi film-music comes from how simple it is to appreciate that sort of music. She can’t take snobbery. The love-interest, her employer, is fired.
She lives in with Sid. But their relationship remains purely platonic. For a hormonally active age (early 20s), the hero does seem in parts temperamentally naïve, or worryingly asexual. There is yet an endearing quality to his ways that make up for that seeming lack of realism. It’s a film that explains best the post-gender, young, easy girl-boy equations that is new to urban India.
Wake Up Sid belongs to a sweet genre that, without doubt, flows on from Farhan Akhtar’s Dil Chahta Hai: part Hollywood; part Bollywood; mostly coming-of-age; subtly romantic; largely original; authentic in feel; light in weight; English in expression; Hindi in language.
Think Abbas Tyrewala’s Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Naa, or if you were to change this film’s title, call it Lakshya By Chance (the first starred Hrithik Roshan; the second, Farhan and Konkona again in the lead roles). If anything, this film is just as real if not more. Given the clichéd subject, most importantly, the coolness isn’t fake: something most films pretending to be for or about ‘youth’ don’t quite manage to grasp. You can immediately tell the writer-director (Ayan Mukherjee, a heart-felt debut) has lived though the material. So have the actors. I may not mind living through this again.