Needle in a haystack

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ARUL MANI

SIDDHARTH (RANBIR KAPOOR) meets Aisha (Konkona Sen) at a party on the last day of college. Aisha has turned up only because one of her roommates was attending. He has just stepped into his twenties and she is 27, but when he asks her if she wants to go for a walk, she makes cow-eyes in alarm and lets him know that she doesn’t plan to sleep with him. That they are terribly different is soon obvious — Sid is entirely comfortable slacking off while Aisha is focussed on being her own person — and yet they contrive to be friends. Sid helps her with finding a flat and helps her move in and then one day she calls him over and tells him she doesn’t want to be alone because it’s her birthday. In a scene that had a row of aunties sighing as one woman, he rigs up a birthday cake using bread, butter, jam and a handy object to stand in for a candle.

FILM » WAKE UP SID
DIRECTOR » AYAN MUKHERJEE
STARRING » RANBIR KAPOOR, KONKONA SEN SHARMA, RAHUL KHANNA, ANUPAM KHER

This zone of non-sexual comfort is, alas, soon shaken. Sid, failing an exam and in a long-lived fit of anger, drives all his friends away, snaps at his parents and leaves home. Aisha provides him accommodation and her various moments of irritation at having a generally useless house-guest spark off for Sid a journey of self-discovery whose roadside attractions include his finding a career, figuring out his parents and learning the meaning of desire.

The striking things about the film are the warmth with which each character is drawn and the journeys they manage to make. Aisha spends a good bit being slightly in love with her boss because he fits her notion of manhood only to discover that desire does not flow from the barrel of a theory. Anupam Kher brings much gravitas to his role as Sid’s father, a self-made man whose journey involved the shelving of his passion for photography. Supriya Pathak resurfaces to play his wife Sarita — her many inabilities do nothing to diminish her capacity for gracefully mending bridges.

This is not a great film, nor even halfway close to being a good film. I wish only to report that, for the first time in many months, I wasn’t bored out of my skull while watching a Bollywood movie. Debutant director Ayan Mukherjee (also credited with story and script) could be accused of hugging the coast of a territory defined by some recent films a little too carefully. That charge may well stick, but what makes this melodrama engaging is its ability to eschew the grand for the small-scale.

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