Wake Up Sid (2009): Past v Present in Bombay Meri *Jaan*!

Score more for the roadway mentioned most often at this blog! This post is part of a joint review with Ajnabi of Paisa Vasool--or Not. We mostly agree on the merits of the film. Please be sure to check out her thoughts at this link.

It's never a bad idea to try to draw inspiration from pleasant, random, and often inconsequential coincidences (as is arguably the case here, at least in the bigger picture :), and here's a good example. Just as I was about to give in to the rust that accompanies a long time away from reviewing films, 'Past in Present' by a favorite, Feist, shuffled in while driving. A quick read of the lyrics (sans the first sentence, no scarlet letter needed) to the fine song is enough to draw parallels to debutante Ayan Mukerji-directed, and Karan Johar-produced, Wake Up Sid.

Gotta know who's got your back / Because they're right in front of you / Because they're telling you the truth

So much present inside my present / Inside my present so...so much past / Inside my present inside my past

Feeling it from dark to bright / When a wrong becomes a right / When a mountain fills with light / It's a volcano

It's not path-breaking, nor is it enlightening. It's not the most entertaining, nor is it the most novel. But it is a sincere, well-written, emotionally-charged account of a boy named Sid (Ranbir Kapoor), who, along with the 'new girl in the city' (Konkona Sen Sharma), fights the odds against personal tendencies to stay afloat in a sea of uncertainties for which he alone is responsible. As predictable as it is, it makes for a rather good film, so much so that any issues the audience might have with the pacing are, at most, an afterthought. Fine performances by the superb cast demand attention, and seldom encourage us to do anything other than stay engaged and root for them. There are no villains, and one of the biggest heroes is none other than the city of Bombay!

It's a relief to see my hometown portrayed in a pleasant light. The focus of films based there tends to be the violent underworld, corrupt police, and/or incompetent politicos. While those tendencies and stereotypes are almost validated with a quick scan of newspaper headlines each day, they aren't exclusive, of course. (What are, and where?) Thankfully, the Mumbai represented by those to whom Karan Johar apologized (why on earth, KJo?), and for whom this disclaimer was inserted at the outset (more background at this link at The Hindu)...

...wasn't the Bombay I grew up in, so if you sense some nostalgia here, bear with me. Clearly, some 'past in present' will be a recurring theme in this post.

There's lots to love about the film. How could there not be, when there's a lot to relate to? For example, there's the need to tell the folks that there's nothing between friends and roommates of opposite genders,...

...or the fun to be had in Bombay rains (or in rains, period!),...

...or how the generation gap often appears inherently insurmountable,...

...or how easily our parents can spoil us (Anupam Kher as Sid's father is fantastic),...

...or how some things just need to be said to be understood,...

...or how venting to the undeserving can sometimes be a good thing (as long as it's someone who's "got your back," as the song by Feist might suggest),...

...or how we often forget that the past in our present stays with us through the future, whether we like it or not,...

...or how the right bookshelves (love these!) can mean so much,...

...or how some of the more simple coincidences can be some of the most inspiring. (And, contrary to the one outlined at the start to this post, absolutely consequential, in the bigger picture!)

Any of you enjoy the feeling of not knowing anyone in a city you've traveled to for the first time? (I love it!) They say if you don't know where you're going, you'll end up anywhere. Interesting, in context? You bet. I wonder if the director thought about that here, and surely, part of its relevance must tie in to Aisha's profession.

Ahem...for the record, the Aisha-like are definitely near the top of my charts! ;)

That the woman (although she describes herself as a 'girl') being older than the 'boy' isn't made a big deal by anyone is worth appreciating. You're probably thinking this isn't surprising coming from a fan of Tabu and Juhi Chawla (each is at least a dozen years older than I; freaks out my mom :D) But seriously, it's only another defining trait for the film as it beautifully captures the lifestyles of the young and the urban. It sure leads to plenty interesting moments. OUCH!

Got to say, a film revolving around self-discovery, and involving a love story with a male character named Sid who is younger than the female counterpart in a relationship almost reminds one of Dil Chahta Hai (2001). It certainly reminds Ayan Mukherji of it. Here's a line from Sid...

...and here's a line from Dil Chahta Hai (DCH). (Ranbir says the line delivered by Aamir's character Akash in the later, although it's translated differently. This bit of dialogue, like DCH, has long been infused in pop culture.)

This discussion with dad...

...is also a centerpiece of the growing up process in DCH.

There's more.


And as much as I try to keep Aamir Khan out of it, I can't. There's this funny reference to Taare Zameen Par (2007) here (which almost offers unintentional commentary on the danger in mass commercialization of a film addressing an issue needing serious attention -- it can trivialize the message)...

...and one of the more crucial moments in the film -- another of those past in present-themed -- involves karaoke to Pehla Nasha from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (1992)! (Anyone interested in a review of that film?)

So yes, I can relate to a character who is a fan of Aamir's films. :) The only unanswered questions I'd liked to have seen addressed in the film were:

1) Would Sid have received more (or less) hostile treatment at 'Mumbai Beat' if people knew of his affiliations with a prominent businessperson? There isn't much of an allusion to the battle of the classes (a positive, surely), because the focus through Aisha's character is on independence and individuality. But would Sid have been demonized at the same outlet had his colleagues known of his affluence? *Did* they know?

2) Does she like old Hindi film songs too?

No discussion of this film would be complete without mention of the soundtrack (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) and a simply delightful background score. The soundtrack is slightly monotonous, with Kya Karoon (Clinton Cerejo; see below) and Iktaara (Kavita Seth; music to this track by favorite Amit Trivedi) being by far my favorite. Thankfully, there's also a pretty good remix for once!

I've said more than I set out to. Wake Up Sid is well, well worth at least one watch. If even a small part of you is fond of Bombay, you will love it. If not, there are always pretty darn good performances by nearly everyone in the cast, a pretty solid script underlying it all, to keep you engaged. This one's a keeper in my books, and there's not much more I ask for from a film of this genre. If you haven't yet seen it, you must!

Movie rating: 4/5 (Excellent!)
Fast become a 2009 favorite. Well done Ranbir Kapoor! Konkona: you're amazing, but we've known that for a while. And I'm finally comfortable unconditionally recommending a Karan Johar product!

Music rating: 3.75/5 (Very good!)
Great integration, with a climax with an unreal score. (Sample here, only if you've seen the film.)

My classification: PG (For a reference to sex lives!)

Official website: http://www.wakeupsidthefilm.com
Could we have some wallpapers with Konkona, please, KJo? *Sigh*

And finally...
I spent a few days last month in India, where, in addition to meeting with our great friend and fellow Bollywood blogger Darshit (of Dunkdaft; !!!), I spent a few days in Bombay (oops, I meant Mumbai), where, as in Los Angeles, there's never a shortage of references to film industries. It's not as lopsided as one would think. Perhaps, for a reference to the term Bollywood (came across this in a random street in Santa Cruz)...

...there's a reference to Hollywood (Fort)!

Lastly, one of the more pleasant surprises (this one's less inconsequential than one would think) came in Karachi, where Kareena Kapoor is now as pervasive on billboards as Katrina Kaif is in Bombay! Go figure...

So there you have it. I still have a hard time getting over the political outrage Wake Up Sid triggered from goons in the guise of politicians (but then, they're popular there, and I don't intend to kick off a political discussion), especially because this, if any film, portrays much fondness of the city. Truth is it's extremely common for many old-timers to still refer to the city as 'Bombay'.

There's a past in our present, and there are few places where past and present coexist as vividly as they do in India today. When the glass is half-full, it's a tantalizing combination in which acceptance, more than tolerance, is fostered. It's a paradox in its own right, this past in present.

Long live Bombay. Long live Bombay cinema. Peace.


rhilex said...

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant review! I loved Wake Up Sid. It might be one of my very favourite movies. There's nothing pathbreaking or super dramatic about it, but it's one of those films that's beautiful in it's simplicity. I, for one, never complained about it being 'lengthy' (as some people said). Maybe I was too entranced by the whole film to take notice. Or maybe those people are crazy. :P

People always say they could identify with Sid, but I saw a lot of myself in Aisha, personally. The want to go out on your own and sort of make something of yourself. On top of that, I'm a writer who's going to be taking a course on magazine journalism in college! xD But it's not just the two main characters, either; the entire supporting cast of characters seemed really real, you know?

I agree with you on the background score! I wish they would have included some of it on the soundtrack! That remix is definitely one of the best I've heard. Most people I've come across didn't like the songs that much, but for me, that cd is easily one of my favourites in Bollywood.

I've never been to Bombay/Mumbai, but my boyfriend lives there and also loved how they portrayed the city in the film. =)

Shellie said...

Wonderful post! I loved this movie, every little thing about it. It's the first movie I'd seen that I really enjoyed Ranbir in, and I adore Konkona always, but LOVED her in this. Somehow it gives me hope that one day I will too find my path.

Off to check out Ajnabi's joint review now.

Filmi Girl said...

It's not path-breaking, nor is it enlightening. It's not the most entertaining, nor is it the most novel. But it is a sincere, well-written, emotionally-charged...

This just sums it up! Wonderful review of a very sincere and sweet film. :)

Anonymous said...

I know it is indeed a good thing to be charming, sweet and simple. Yet my problem with Wake Up Sid despite its initial charm remained throughout the movie and did not just come up as an after thought.

My problem here is basically what is Sid really waking up to.

Becoming more responsible, and transforming into the MAN as Aisha wants?? Nope, none of those.

Sid's dad is a big business honcho. Sid can live peacefully from 1% of dad's investment's put safely in a fixed deposit and aaram se enjoy from the interest. But of course, it is not about that. It is about independence - the freedom of earning 3-5k Rs from a starting photographer in a Mumbai local mag, not even a national weekly. I know, I am being too cynical, and hence, I am concerned why Sid isn't especially when he has been born n brought up in BOMBAY. Yes, BOMBAY not MUMBAI..(MNS..up urs)

ajnabi said...

I seriously had no idea about the Dil Chahta Hai lines! That's so fun. Easter eggs appeal to the fangirl in me. :-)

bollyviewer said...

Oooh Kareena in Karachi! (Hmm... that sounds like the beginning of a less than tasteful song. :-|) I'm just surprised that Karachi doesnt have a Bal Thackeray of its own, screaming blue murder over that hoarding!

I loved WUS, and for almost the same reasons that you did. Much as I love seeing it onscreen, here Bombay (yes, I'm all for 'Bombay' after I read this), didnt make as big an impression as Ranbir did. :-D I watched the film for Konkona and ended up liking Ranbir! I think KoKo has given way better performances elsewhere.

theBollywoodFan said...

Rhilex: Thanks! Yes, it's only fair to be open to forgiving the length, but remember, this is coming from a fan of Ashutosh Gowariker films. :)

Woah, good luck with that journalism course! Cool to be able to relate. I ought to have mentioned the Spongebob Squarepants comforter Sid was using, or the Toblerone bars in Aisha's refrigerator! LOL.

Definitely agreed on the supporting cast, everyone was so good. Sid's mom, too, just brilliant. And of course, I'd agree completely with your boyfriend's thoughts. You should try checking out Bombay sometime, it's magical. ;)

Shell: Interesting point there, isn't it? I've seen each of Ranbir's films by now, and I think this is the one I enjoyed most, too.

Good luck figuring out the 'path', and once you do, please share the secret. I wonder if we can ever restrict ourselves to a single path...perhaps the secret lies in exploring more of them? (Don't know, just saying.)

theBollywoodFan said...

Filmi Girl: Thank you. :) There's got to be plenty room aboard the Ranbir Express, I'll gladly hop on after this. You might recall I had serious issues with Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, all a distant memory now, thankfully.

Anonymous: Thanks for your interesting comments there, all valid. The way I see it, Sid's waking up to not taking things for granted. Maybe he'd start a photography magazine or something with his wealth? :)

Agree with the need for independence going hand in hand with at least a decent standard of life, and it's tough to downgrade, yes, but maybe it was all about appreciating his position more? And are you trying to say those of us born and brought up in Bombay are more cynical? Really? I hope you're kidding. :P

theBollywoodFan said...

Ajnabi: That line is actually in my list of all-time favorite quotes, so I was just very glad to see the 'cool' factor in how it was used in Wake Up Sid. There are probably other Easter eggs in there, and I'm sure I'll be seeing it again, so stay tuned. :)

Bollyviewer: LOL, right. Karachi definitely has more than her share of goons, it's such a shame. The city, and Lahore, are more moderate than most people think. Sadly, there's hardly a shortage of those crying out loud in the name of (you got it) their version of religion and culture, and they always do more harm infrastructually. Oh, well.

You've made my day by sharing that link! Thanks to you, I now have academic integrity to back up the use of Bombay! Love this bit:

A nice example of allonyms closer to (my) home is "Mumbai" (Marathi endonym), "Bambai" (Hindi endonym) and "Bombay" (English endonym). While some might claim that the last one is an English exonym, English is one of India's official languages and there is a significant population in the city that uses it as a principal language. Therefore "Bombay" qualifies to be an endonym and is one of at least three allonyms for the city.

KoKo's been ever so consistent. Recently saw her in Amu too, in which she was absolutely brilliant! Such an asset to Hindi film today.

Anishok said...

I had not picked up on all those DCH references! Although I did like WUS better than DCH, the similarities are there.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Anishok: Thanks for your visit and comment! I'd say DCH has been a constant in pop culture of urban India (and the urban from India) for a long time now, partly because at the time of its release, it was a novelty by Hindi film standards. (Besides, it was exceptionally well-written and had great performances left and right.) I like to think Wake Up Sid offers a few little tributes to it. Or, KJo could be courting Aamir, for what it's worth. :)

PS Rhilex: Agree completely that it would've been great to have at least three/four songs from the background score as part of the soundtrack. They're quite amazing, and it's a shame we can't get more of them. Even if we extract audio from the DVD, they won't ever be the complete songs (assuming they exist). :'(

theBollywoodFan said...

All: On a related note, here's a cool news story, although someone's (Nandita? The media?) crediting the wrong film for KJo's apology. (Or did the Bombay-Mumbai thing come up during the release of My Name is Khan too? There's so much going on, tough to keep track.)

Bombay or Mumbai, it's the same: Nandita Das

Nicki said...

Wake Up Sid is still my fave 2009 Bollywood film :)

Awesome review and post. Love the screencaps. Very thoughtful how you highlighted the Aamir Khan points :)

Anonymous said...

Nawab, Great write up! I liked this: "It's a relief to see my hometown portrayed in a pleasant light," I never thought of that until now, but of course you're right! Excellent point. I really like your own photos included here too. Your movie screen caps reminded me of two of the supporting characters that I really enjoyed from the film but had forgotten: his smart friend (bigger girl), and his mother; they were both fantastic and played emotionally touching characters. I think I want to see this again now! On a side note, I've always liked how you layer 2 screen caps to fit all the dialog in while not repeating the picture; very clever yaar! Let's call in Mumbombai, or Bommumbay to keep everyone happy!

All the best yaar...heading to Ajnabi ki blog now.

theBollywoodFan said...

Nicki: I can see why it's your favorite from 2009, and I wouldn't be surprised if it stands the test of time the best of all films from 2009. Thanks, glad you enjoyed the references to Aamir, quite enjoyed them too!

Adab, Sita-ji: It really is, I think the worst it got was at the Unforgettable Tour a couple years ago (the Bachchan concerts), where in an India Showcase, they chose a crude underworld track to represent Bombay. Of course, I booed. :) Bollywood's had a love affair with Delhi for the last 5-6 years, it'd be nice to see other parts of India. How about setting a film in Calcutta or Hyderabad?

Yep, Sid's friend and mom were great. The entire supporting cast were. As for Bombay v Mumbai, I use them interchangeably. It's just that the justification for a circus in the case of the Wake Up Sid release was ... ridiculous!

Anyway, have you seen 'Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year'?


dunkdaft said...

You always come up with interesting links between Aamir and others. :) I caught only one thing [mard ban] in this movie, but tum toh...

Agree that music was superb in this movie. i feel its the factor that drove movie on its own. Amit Trivedi really scores high. Love that 'rain scene' you have put link to. I have all 6 background songs on my playlist. Lovely songs. Remember, 'so close' when they are celebrating Koko's b'day? Love that track too.

Sometimes, unknown faces and unknown characters does impress even more than the leads. That 'simple coincidences' scene was one of them. Expressions are so real that its a gem from the movie. I get lump in throat, and thought in mind why I can't be a child always and play with mom like that?

I rated this movie only 3.5 stars when watched for the first time. But after each re-watch, like Nicki, its getting on top of the chart for my fav film of 2009.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Darshit: Thanks, and there have got to be more similarities if the focus to watch as intently is there, but maybe it was bound to be given the overall theme is progress in maturity.

As for Amit Trivedi, we've been saying it for a while now, haven't we? Always something interesting up his sleeve, can't wait to his future works. That track during Koko's bday (and that make-believe cake!) were great.

We can't always be kids, of course, but as moms say, we'll always be kids to them, for better and for worse, LOL. But you're right. (Singing..."bachpan bhi gaya, jawaani bhi (almost) gayi," ROTFL.)

I can't wait to see this again, I think it'll get better with multiple views, we'll see. Thanks for stopping by bro. Hope aal izz well. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Yes, totally agreed! The movie, despite looking quite banal, creeps up on you and takes you by surprise. It still is, more or less, a simple story just told simply, but the execution was really good.

And.. oh that Ek Tara song! Loved it!

As for the billboards, I guess nobody was noticing Bollywood stars creeping up on these billboards (SRK and Amitabh have been there, with or without their knowledge i.e.) The most hilarious scenario was when someone protested about Kareena's billboard next to the Army HQ.

theBollywoodFan said...

Right, I was surprised at how much I liked it. The plot was why I'd avoided it for this long, but I was clearly quite wrong.

LOL at the SRK and Amitabh billboard comment. Seriously. :D

Kareena was all over, and there were several different kinds, too. There was one across from some mall on Tariq Road (I think it was Dolmen), for the same brand, on which there were seven Kareenas in different attire, of course, almost reminding one of Priyanka Chopra in the 'What's Your Raashee' posters! Wish I'd taken a picture of that. And yes, that 'protest' must've been hilarious.

Thanks for your visit and comment.

Anonymous said...

That's a beautiful header pic you got tbf! Tell us more about it if you please?

Filmbuff said...

Adab Bollywoodfanji

Fantastic review. Glad that you liked konkona in Amu. She is indeed a very talented actress and I have been lucky in seeing most of her movies except Page 3 and Traffic Singal. Hopefully I will get to these some day.

Ranbir has done well in WUS and Rocket Singh.

BTW, it will always be Bombay and Madras for me not mumbai and chennai. If people are protesting about the use of Bombay then it confirms that they are small minded.

I was also in India in March in my beloved city of Hyderabad. I saw "Leader" the most Shekhar Kamulla movie on the big screen. I would strongly recommend you to see this movie - hopefully a DVD will be out soon with english subtitles. Yes it would be good if filmmakers set their films in more cities of India than only Bombay and Delhi. I managed to buy a lot of oldies and am having a great time!

Anonymous said...

It was an online protest. I'm sure there would have been some protests on the ground. Those are always fun. And I don't know much about Karachi, but I kind of get an idea.

And yes, Filmigirl covered the Kareena different looks! http://filmigirl.blogspot.com/2010/03/kareena-kapoor-rocks-my-world.html

Looking forward to some more posts! :)

theBollywoodFan said...

Anonymous: Thanks for the comment. The header pic (shot by yours truly :) is of the Eros cinema in Bombay. The building to the right in the Churchgate railway station. Glad you like it!

Filmbuff: Hi! Thanks so much for your kind words. Haven't seen 'Traffic Signal', and I hope you enjoy 'Page 3', I believe that was the first Konkona film I ever saw. She was quite brilliant in it, too.

Never appreciated the extent of scorn that accompanies the use of one city name over the other, it's almost laughable.

Amen to more cities in major films. And Hyderabad, you say! Whenever I think of Hyderabad, I think of Tabu (and Meenaxi!) ... in other words, it's a great thing. ;) Enjoy the oldies, and thanks as always for the film recommendation!

DishoomDishoom: Thanks for that link! It was something to see all those Kareena pictures side by side. Karachi is well and truly graced with her presence, LOL. Seriously, can't miss it. Right out the airport, at shopping malls, on major highways, all over the place!

Filmbuff said...

Yes Tabu is from Hyderabad.

I am enjoying all the oldies I have seen so far and would recommend - Blackmail, Jewel Theif, Waqt, Anupama, Bandini and The Train. It was good to see Naseeb once again - Manmohan Desai's masala movie although not in the same class as AAA.

Do see Leader. I don't want to spoil it by giving you details of the theme. I shall wait for your review.

dunkdaft said...

wow man. lovely header. just noticed it. :)

theBollywoodFan said...

Filmbuff: Thanks for the recommendations. Of those, the only one I've seen is Jewel Thief (great music there!). Shall look to check them out. Ref: 'Leader', the title alone sounds interesting. Thanks again!

Darshit: Thank you bro! You know what that part of the city means to my life. Cheers.