Wake Up Sid starts off more or less asleep for the first hour, stratches and groans a bit for the rest of its running time and manages barely a few moments of absolute clarity in between. And yet, you don’t come away disappointed. If it does wake you up to anything at all, it is this: Ranbir Kapoor is the real thing. And now, since I’ve played enough with the title, I’ll switch back to sanity and get on with the review.
The film tells the story of an aimless rich kid who gets a crash course in growing up when he walks out of his house after a tiff with his folks. His saviour, mentor and ass-kicker-in-chief turns out to be a woman he befriended on her first night in Mumbai and helped settle into the city. That she is probably 6-7 years older than him makes their relationship a little more interesting than the ones we usually encounter. It is almost a cardinal rule in movies of this nature that the girl comes across as more mature than the guy, but to actually make her older is uncommon.
Since the plot itself isn’t earth-shattering, the movie rests on the strength of the writing and the performances. The performances are easier to talk about: Ranbir is in top form, and seems to be in his comfort zone in both the serious and the light moments. Konkona seems strangely ill at ease in what must surely now be called “the Konkona Sensharma role” when scriptwriters create characters like this. The supporting cast is uniformly good and, in the case of Supriya Pathak, absolutely sublime. I’ll get to her in a minute — she deserves more than a single sentence.
The writing is a curious mix of good and bad news. Much of the dialogue falls in the spectrum between obvious and pedestrian. The background score even supplies a chorus that says “Wake Up!” during key moments, just in case the audience is comprised of lobotomized bacteria who don’t Get The Point. The Meet cute, which features an extended conversation between the leads, might as well have been written on autopilot.
And yet there are moments of uncommon brilliance, such as a reconciliation between two estranged friends after one of them has just been dumped by his girlfriend. And moments where you can see how the writer made a conscious and sensible choice with regard to some stock supporing characters — a potential romantic interest and a sexpot neighbour, to name a couple. And a few absolutely sublime moments, almost all of them featuring Supriya Pathak, who plays Sid’s mom. There are scenes where she (and the writing) accomplishes with a simple look what lesser mortals would’ve taken pages of dialogue to describe.
One in particular, where she visits Konkona’s apartment where her son is currently staying, stood out for me. Right at the end of that meeting, Konkona feels compelled to explain the status of their relationship to Supriya. How that moment plays out is one of the reasons why cinema deserves its place as a creative art in its own right: there is no way a book or a play (with its inability to close in on an actor’s face) could’ve done it exactly right. For the first time in the entire movie, I was gobsmacked.
It is precisely this moment of beauty that makes me so exasperated with Wake Up Sid. The movie shows itself capable of greatness, and but decides to stay off that pedestal and become yet another genre exercise. (Oh yeah, it’s a genre now — it’s called Movies Involving Characters Who Think Andheri Is On Another Planet.)