Wake Up Sid: A fresh, and sensitive coming of age story

When I revisit the movie, I finally understand how skillfully Ayan Mukerji was able to tell a very universal story of growing up…

Ayan Mukerji’s debut movie, Wake Up Sid, is about the restlessness that plagues a lot of youngsters just as they’re in the process of beginning their life in the world as adults has resonated with me ever since I watched it for the first time years ago. It’s a very relatable experience for me. Yes, I don’t belong to a privileged family like Sid (played by Ranbir Kapoor), and wasn’t a mischief maker, but I share many of his personality traits. Sid is immature. He has no time to think about the feelings of other people. His mother, Sarita, is a quiet woman who has always put his son’s wishes before anything in her life. But Sid has no respect for Sarita’s sacrifices, and instead proceeds to mock her for not being able to speak English. Sid takes his mother’s love for granted (like we all do!) because he feels entitled to it, but isn’t able to reciprocate it. Sid’s father is stern and remote. His friends are similarly careless, but they still have fixed goals about their future.

Sid meets Aisha Banerjee, played by Konkana Sen Sharma, an aspiring writer who has come to Mumbai to fulfill her dreams. Aisha is more mature than Sid. She’s disciplined, and generous, He’s erratic and selfish. A scene, in which Aisha and Sid go for house hunting, shows how much their personalities differ. When Sid sniffs at the dirty apartment that Aisha has chosen for herself, and says they can look for better offers, she firmly tells him her decision and won’t change it because he dislikes it. Their relationship develops very slowly. This is one of the few instances in Bollywood cinema that a love story isn’t rushed with the help of songs, but takes time and patience to evolve. 

Sid evolves as well; after failing his college exams, his father confiscates all of his privileges. Sid moves in with Aisha and starts to take his hobby as a photographer more seriously. His education in the course of life isn’t sped up with quick lessons. Ranbir Kapoor acts from outside in, meaning he slowly creates a character who transforms from within. Sid makes a lot of mistakes; he alienates his friends because of his jealous nature and tries to enforce his beliefs at Aisha. He slowly realizes that he needs to accept people as they are, and try to improve himself to understand them.

When I first saw Wake up Sid, I was in school, and enjoyed it as a piece of entertainment. But, years later when I revisited it, I finally understood how skillfully Ayan Mukerji had been able to tell a very universal story of growing up, and yet made it distinctive with his care for details. All the stuff in Aisha’s apartment feels authentic, and lived in; it doesn’t feel art directed. The movie is a love letter to Mumbai. How it can be overcrowded with millions of dreamers, but still make room for few truly work hard to realize their aspirations. The last sequence, set against Mumbai’s notorious monsoon season is the most romantic depiction of the city in a Bollywood movie for me because it merges the beginning of relationship, to the first rush of rain that makes everything feel fresh and alive. 

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