Wake Up Sid came at a time when youth-oriented films had just started to get into the groove of Indian cinema. Rajkumar Hirani's comedy about young IITians had become a blockbuster in the same year. Anurag Kashyap's reimagined Devdas adaptation and Vishal Bhardwaj's pulsating Kaminey showed a grittier side of youngsters and instantly became a sensation for Indian audiences. Their young characters were imperfect, fallible and their coming-of-age journeys were much more believable.
Unlike the Hirani blockbuster, the other three films were relatively low-budget – and were devoid of the usual Bollywood extravaganza. Their understanding of 20-somethings was much more rooted and closer to reality. Wake Up Sid is probably not as groundbreaking as the other two. However, Ayan Mukerji brings an emotional ingenuity to his writing that is hard to miss. The character of Sid became a much more convincing portrayal of the confused millennials in their 20s because of his omnipresent reluctance to grow up.
Siddharth Mehra is a rich, spoiled brat from Mumbai, who enjoys the fruits of his father's lavish income. He is lazy, immature, and does not care for anything besides his present state of mind. However, he maintains an air of breeziness around him that makes him likeable among his group of friends. He is someone you wouldn't mind hanging out with. His carefree, freewheeling nature is certainly infectious. But the foundation of this attitude has more to do with the cocoon of comfort he is in. He's someone who gets anything and everything the moment he utters the wish, on a whim. No worry of running out of it makes him oblivious about the future.
So the end of graduation does not feel nearly as important to him as his peers. The talks of 'entering the world of adults' bore him. The urgency of employment is not a pressing issue either. It causes a sudden disconnect with his friends. In such a frail state, he meets an aspiring writer called Aisha at a party and strikes a conversation with her.
Unlike him, she has a clear understanding of her future prospects. Her minute fear of a foreign city does not envelop her entire personality. Her assurance in her beliefs and desires sparks a starting point for an escape from his present. He discovers the foreign concept of financial independence from her and begins a quest for his own vocation. Over time, her unwavering confidence makes him yearn for a strong sense of self for himself. The journey to find his own identity is the crux of the film and traveling through the hazy streets of Mumbai, we get to be a part of it.
Sid reminds me so much of Dil Chahta Hai's Akash – in terms of their irreverence about a future. But in Wake Up Sid, the character's identity crisis is the core conflict, and rekindling broken bonds becomes secondary. It brings the idea of adulthood to the centerstage and gives emotional levity to the need of growing up. Sid learns the importance of fleeting moments – captures them with his camera. Living without his parents gives him an added sense of responsibility and the lack of pampering makes him mature. He gets comfortable with change being fundamental in the process of growing up.
His tiny steps towards growth continue to resonate with the viewers over the years. His unbridled innocence in how he looks at things makes him a bundle of joy to witness over and over again. Who doesn't love to see his efforts to make an egg omelet and the joy of making a successful one after numerous failed attempts? That scene alone summarises the process of growing up – how it can be scary, discomforting, and filled with failures – yet those small accomplishments slowly build up to give structure to a layered personality. Sid personifies the same – through Ranbir's performance, Ayan's nuanced direction, Anil Mehta's evocative camerawork, and Konkana's stunning anchoring portrayal of Aisha.