If not Ranbir Kapoor, Ayan Mukerji would have been perfect for Sid, the lead role in Mukerji’s directorial debut. In Wake Up Sid, the hero is a 20-something, upper-middle class slacker living off his parents’ money; an urban nomad in Mumbai who parties hard, and lives easy. His mother wants him to be an actor, his father wants him to join his business, and Sid simply wants to laze around.
After months of aimlessness, he finally wakes up to responsibility, gets a job and falls in love.
Mukerji, who just turned 26, says he “greatly appreciates the art of being lazy”. He is, again by his own admission, “an upper-middle class boy still living off his folks”, the dude who “bummed around” until he made a New Year’s resolution to write and direct his first film. His family wanted him to be an actor, but he always thought “being a director is cool”. Before Wake Up Sid, he assisted Ashutosh Gowariker on Swades and mentor Karan Johar on Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna.
His first cousin and close friend Tanya Ghavri (22) says, “Ayan is completely Sid. He’s a spoilt brat who had everything on a sliver platter. Despite being a geek in school, he faffed around in college.” Resemblance to any person living is purely coincidental? Not so.
“I don’t admit that Sid is based on me, because had I said I was writing an autobiographical script at 24, I would have sounded like a megalomaniac,” he grins sheepishly. “At the time of writing the film, I missed the feeling of being young and carefree. The film was an offshoot of that emotion,” he explains.
But typically, he admits his self-indulgence in making a film meant for an audience of people exactly like him. “The film has no real dramatic structure, which might alienate others. It’s just a bunch of emotions,” he says, hoping however, that Sid’s character is endearing enough to cut across all cinematic barriers.
Parallels to director-actor Farhan Akhtar are frequently drawn. Both belong to the young breed of intelligent filmmakers with trendy debut films. But Mukerji retorts, “I thought Dil Chahta Hai was more accomplished. My film is smaller and simpler.”
So where does Sid end and Ayan begin? Mukerji is an avid reader and traveller. He spent a year wandering in Manali, New York, Paris, Italy, Bangalore and Panchgani before writing Wake Up Sid. “Travelling makes me perceptive and fertile. I love spending time with myself,” he says. Sid failed his exams, but Mukerji always topped his, despite his indifference to academia.
But as a Hindi movie director, Mukerji is as non-conformist as they come, despite the fact that he’s from a filmi family. Yesteryear actors Deb and Joy Mukherjee are his father and uncle respectively, and actresses Kajol and Rani Mukerji are his cousins. But this newbie belongs to that new age, urban hippie clan. Sitting in his personal cabin at Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions office, he says “I might have a grain of ‘filminess’ in me — Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is my favourite film —but I’m working to develop my individuality.”
Right now, though, he’s trying to “shed Wake Up Sid.” “I’m suffering from postpartum depression. I’m listless and lost,” he says. His cure, like any other 20-something, is “two months of not feeling guilty about partying, reading, travelling, and not working out”. To the inevitable what next, he replies: “I’ve always had lots of questions but no answers. I’m always confused, never content.” That’s Sid all over again.