In Ayan Mukherji’s Wake Up Sid, a charming slacker tells a recent arrival in his city that she’s going to love it when the rains come to Bombay because they completely change its character. The movie then tracks their life over the course of two eventful months before the monsoon as he is compelled to rise in love, recognize his privilege, rediscover his parents and find a career.
Everything chugs along at a leisurely pace and whether you find this journey interesting or not depends on whether you’re able to relate to any of it. Personally, I found the movie littered with characters who felt familiar to me.
For example, central to the upheaval in Sid Mehra’s (Ranbir Kapoor) life is that girl to whom he promised a life-changing monsoon: Aisha Bannerji (Konkona Sen Sharma). The New York Times review carried the headline “Career Woman Helps A Man-Child Grow Up“. How often do you see that?
Aisha’s a few years older and she has all the drive and determination that Sid lacks. She moved to Mumbai from Kolkota because that’s where she wanted to be, she’s planned her career path even if terrifies the bejeesus out of her, and she wants a man who is decisive, smart, and driven – “not a boy”, she says not unkindly when Sid asks her if she sees something more than friendship in their future.
There’s an adorable frankness about her that is neither rude nor mean. Occasionally, her tongue runs away with her – “I didn’t expect to be so nervous or for you to be so handsome,” she chatters to her yummy boss-to-be (Rahul Khanna) right when she’s trying to impress him with the depth of her homework.
Sid, the kind of guy who sulks about his failing grade as though it was caused by external circumstances beyond his control, is immediately attracted to this go-getter.
Producer Karan Johar likes to note that Mukherji, his latest protege, is the same age as he was when he made his debut with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. But there are no friendship bands in this movie, the tomboy doesn’t need to make herself over into a swan, and there is no mournful song about true love found and lost in the rain. Instead, as Sid and Aisha get to know each other, Hemant Kumar sings “Mera humdum mil gaya” in the background; later, as Aisha examines her feelings for Sid, the voice in her head says:
Main to kisiki hoke yeh bhi na jaani
Ruth hai ye do pal ki ya rehegi sada
(kise hai pata kise hai pata)
But what really struck me about Wake Up Sid was the fight between Sid and his father (Anupam Kher). Far from being the genial “gapoochie! o lola!” permissive father of movies like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Kher is the kind of father I have at home: a deeply emotional, inarticulate man who finds it easier to express his affectionate concern with a thundering scold than a heartfelt speech about finicky things like love. Sid is horribly rude and ungrateful when his father calls him out on his utter worthlessness; paradoxically, he’s the first person Sid wants to tell about his job. That’s pretty much every good father-and-son relationship I’ve ever known right there.
Somebody – I forget who – once remarked that the greatest love stories in the world occur between parents and their children. It might be the C-plot in Wake Up Sid but the few scenes it affords are remarkably free of the usual cloying sentimentality reeking of manipulation that infuses any discussion of The Maa in Bollywood and full of warmth instead. Supriya Pathak essentially plays a lighter version of her role in the Sarkar series but the only time I teared up in the movie – emotionally, it’s more of a pleasant plateau than a rollercoaster ride – was when she explains her awkward English as a way to understand the stranger who is her son.
By the time the rains arrived in Mumbai and everything had fallen in place, all I wanted to do was cuddle up with my momsie and make gentle fun of my overprotective daddy who we’re calling Psycho Dad these days because we have a nasty sense of humor like that. I guess Dharma Productions is still all about loving your parents!