I’m always apprehensive when the lead character in Hindi film is a rich kid. In a typical masala movie, the rich kid has great-looking friends, a hot car and becomes a vice president at a huge corporation right out of college. It’s a life that many filmmakers assume that the rest of us wish we were living.
Wake Up Sid is more sophisticated than that. Although the main character, Sid, has a cool car, his life seems like that of a real person, and not some fantasy character.
As the film begins, Sid (Ranbir Kapoor) celebrates taking his final exams with his two best friends, Laxmi (Shikha Talsania) and Rishi (Namit Das). In a rare display of realism in casting, Sid’s friends — and the rest of his classmates — aren’t all potential Miss Indias or cool dudes. They look like regular college kids. Laxmi is smart but struggles with her weight, and Rishi is an average-looking guy eager to propose to his girlfriend.
While partying, Sid meets Aisha (Konkona Sen Sharma). It’s her first day in Mumbai, where she hopes to become a journalist. Sid shows her the town after agreeing that they will nothing more than friends. He bails on his job at his dad’s bathroom fixture company to help Aisha get settled in Mumbai.
Then Sid learns that he’s failed his exams, while Laxmi and Rishi have passed and graduated. He vents his anger against them and his parents as well, who kick him out of the house and cut him off financially. He moves in with Aisha, only to discover that he has no ambition and no life skills. For the first time, Sid has to learn responsibility and find a direction.
The film ends the way you expect it to, but the way it gets there is refreshing. Early in the movie, there’s little to like about Sid. He’s fun, but he’s spoiled and ungrateful. His tense relationship with his mother feels especially realistic; he’s mean to her in a way that only an angry teen (or in Sid’s case, a spoiled twenty-year-old) can be.
As his character develops, Sid learns empathy from Laxmi, the value of friendship from Rishi, and self-sufficiency from Aisha. Sid’s maturity is so stunted that he celebrates every minor step toward independence as though he just discovered electricity.
Director Ayan Mukerji is patient enough to give the audience an accurate picture of who Sid is and then takes the time to show Sid’s incremental progress, without the movie ever feeling slow. There are a few musical montages, but no unnecessary dance numbers to stop the movie’s momentum.