changing times

In ‘Asli Naqli‘ (Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1962) Anand (Dev Anand), a rich businessman’s (Nasir Hussain)grandson lives a wastrel’s life, blowing up money with both hands. After a fight with his grandfather who thinks all he is good for is to marry off to another rich businessman’s daughter and consolidate a business partnership, Anand walks out of his comfortable home.

In ‘Wake Up, Sid‘ (Ayan Mukerjee, 2009) Sid (Ranbir Kapoor) is a rich businessman’s (Anupam Kher) son who lives a wastrel’s life, blowing up his father’s money in having fun. His father cajoles him to come and work at his office by promising him an expensive car. But he walks away after a week. Then he fails to graduate. After a fight with his father who is fed up of his rude, inconsiderate, selfish behavior, Sid walks out of his comfortable home.

After this, the films develop in completely different ways. In ‘Asli Naqli‘, Anand really sees a world that is different from his. He tries to sleep in the park, and is chased off by a policeman. A passing factory worker, Mohan (Anwar Hussain) befriends him and takes him home. His home is in a slum, where he lives with his younger sister. Mohan’s neighbors are all laborers like him, uneducated, poor and hard-working. Anand sees real poverty, and relationships based on mutual needs, and not greed. He meets Renu (Sadhana) who works in an office all day, and visits the slums in the evenings to teach the illiterate workers. She has her own problems, a sick mother (Leela Chitnis) to whom she has to lie that her father is still alive, a younger school-going sister, and the burden of running a family.

Anand finds it impossible to get a job. He gets one with the help of Renu, even though he is not qualified for it. She covers up for his lack of skills at work, but he eventually gets caught and fired. Then a neighbor (Mukhri) helps him find work as a bus driver for a school. His grandfather manages to trace him there. He threatens Renu that he will reveal the secret of her father’s death to her mother and blackmails Anand into leaving Renu for the welfare of her mother. It is only when Mohan and the other slum dwellers intervene and Renu’s mother learns the secret accidentally that the the grandfather has nothing to hold Anand back with. Anand walks out of his palatial home once again to be with the people who have taught him the values of life, and marry Renu.

In ‘Wake Up, Sid’,Β  Aisha (Konkona Sen Sharma) is a newcomer to the city, but she finds a job in the magazine of her choice immediately. It is with the same ease that she moves from working women’s hostel to an independent flat at the sight of a cockroach on her bed. When Sid leaves home, he lands up at her house. She lives alone and agrees to let him stay with her. Sid’s problems are keeping the house neat, learning to cook an egg, and not spending as much money as he used to. Instead of playing video games, he now photographs people.Β  Ayesha is able to get him a job in her office as easily as she got her own. He gets his first pay check and visits his father to give it to him. His father forgives him, and asks him to come back home. Sid without a thought for Ayesha, packs his bags, ready to leave. He realizes he loves Ayesha only once he’s back home, and when he reads her first-person narrative of her arrival in the city and her love for him. Sid and his friends’ problems remain relationships, and love. They never move out of their comfort zone of their friends and peers, and they never come in touch with the world outside their own. Even so, when they do drift apart, no one makes any real effort to re-connect, except accidentally or once when a friend comes over with Sid’s camera and other essentials, and tells him that he is not the only one with problems, she has her own, her weight.

I’d hate to think this is indicative of the society we are living in now. But it is certainly indicative of the kind of people who are making commercial films in Bumm-Bumm-Bhole-Land today.


    • No, Sharmi. I’d like to think that this is not indicative of our times, just the way the industry is functioning these days. Controlled by marketing and management people, and the creative inputs usually revolve around brands.

      • This also got me wondering: is there a thought somewhere that a mainstream commercial film MUST be urban, even if it tapori? That villages are good only for ‘art’ or funny films? Comparing the number of films in the 50’s or even the 60’s that were set in rural India to the relative number made these days… I’m thinking aloud now: but rural India isn’t the place where your really big brands sell, is it?

        • Yes, dustedoff, it’s all about branding, isn’t it? Look at ‘Aisha’, yuck! It’s definitely working like that, because it’s all corporate, and marketing and promos and publicity. Smaller films also don’t see the light of the day, because promos and publicity now cost more than an average small budget film. A friend pointed out to me the other day that the credits for the marketing and publicity people on ‘Peepli Live’ ran on much longer than those for the creative team.

  1. I like Wake up Sid for its music, the feel good factor and Ranbir Kapoor. Now before you ban me from the blog (Dhanno would force you to :D), it is the only movie I liked Ranbir Kapoor in. But I felt Aisha’s part was terribly weak. Glaring flaws in her character sketch, she reprimands 21 yr old Sid for not being ambitious, when her only claim to fame at 27 yrs(she says that in the movie) is editing her ‘school magazine’. At 27, I had worked for 4 yrs, had a baby, took a baby break and joined back work. And she is from Kolkata, a big city with far more opportunities than Alld. If I were exceptional, it would have been another thing, but I am just one of the thousands of women working in IT, most of them exceeding me in both talent and ambition. And then she moves into that flat in Mumbai.. and buys so much furniture and stuff even before the first pay check is issued. I was irritated to say the least!

    • Violet, Dhanno gives me instructions on what not to write about Ranbir Kapoor before I even begin.πŸ™‚

      Yes, in fact, Aisha’s character was really irritating. At 27, I’d been working for 8 years, and then joined the Film Institute. And true of so many of the women I knew back then, and we belonged to an older generation, too when there were fewer opportunities in general.

  2. “Sid’s problems are keeping the house neat, learning to cook an egg, and not spending as much money as he used to. ”

    I think this sentence nails it. Really enjoyed reading the post. Thanks!

  3. I always thought that Ayaan Mukharji woke up one morning. His mother scolded him, that he has grown up now. He should be responsible, fold his underwear properly, keep his dishes in the sink and get a job. And he made a movie about that speech.

  4. I’d hate to think this is indicative of the society we are living in now. But it is certainly indicative of the kind of people who are making commercial films in Bumm-Bumm-Bhole-Land today.

    I think it’s more indicative of the film’s audience. In the 60s their audience was the poorer middle class (and poor people, too), while today they cater to the richer, middle-class yuppies.

    I love your comparison. I never thought of it as Sid only worrying about cooking and cleaning! To me, it was like a feminist version of Mills&Boons – romantic and sweet, with pretty Ranbir.πŸ˜€

    • Bollyviewer, no, I think that is what the marketing gurus would like to believe. Of course, the richer, middle-class yuppies can afford the multiplex tickets. But there is a large audience out there, who is not being catered to, at all.

      Sid, M&B, hmmm! I thought M&Bs were more romantic, with more sexual chemistry between the characters too.πŸ™‚

  5. I did not mean that there isn’t a poor audience, merely that the films are no longer trying to appeal to them, since they’ve got a richer market (NRIs and urban yuppies) cornered. I guess regional cinema is filling in the gaps, there.

    I thought M&Bs were more romantic, with more sexual chemistry between the characters too.” You mean you didn’t detect any sexual chemistry between Konkona-Ranbir as they cuddled in a drunken stupor?πŸ˜€ I should ask Dhanno! ;D

    • Yes, true, bollyviewer, which is why regional cinema is doing well now.

      Dhanno prefers it when there is no sexual chemistry between Ranbir and his co-stars. Which is why she likes Konkona, and doesn’t like Katrina.πŸ™‚

  6. i love this post- i did not as such dislike Wake Up Sid – but it was a screensaver that inoffensively continues. Also I was informed several weeks after seeing it on TV that what I thought was the end of the film was actually not. In my version, Ranbir and Konkona, go their separate lives in the rain, allowing it to wash away their last experiences. I thought, wah, what a good ending! The ads began so i thought picture is khatam and switched channels. Only while discussing its perceived radicalism with my colleague the other day I was informed that in fact the twain meet in a Marine Drive hug. Oh well.

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