- Gaurav Patki
- 31 December 2018
The right set of characters
Script Analysis of Hindi film 'Wake Up Sid'
Wake Up Sid (2009)
(Directed by: Ayan Mukherjee | Story & Screenplay: Ayan Mukherjee, Dialogue Niranjan Iyengar)
It's facsinating to analyse a film that’s close to your heart. You may find new dimensions that had so far gone unnoticed. The same goes for one of my most favorite films, Wake up Sid.
Every movie has its strength to play on and for me, Wake up Sid stands out for its CHARACTER DESIGN. I used to think that Sid's character struck a chord with me since I was in a similar space when the film was released; but with later viewings, I understood that there is more to it. It's not even just about the character of the protagonist. Every character is written meticulously. Let me make an attempt at finding what makes the characterization, in the film, extraordinary.
Sid, in deep sleep
Let's begin with the protagonist of the film. It's a straightforward Coming-of-Age story and like many films in this genre, it has a typical arch of the protagonist attaining maturity. I feel the simpler the film, the trickier to make it work. The writers don’t have a ‘sit-on-the-edge’ plot to hook the viewer, neither they have a visual spectacle of period dramas or action movies at their disposal. Even the emotional dynamics between the characters are not as complex that it can grip the viewer's attention. In such cases, the responsibility of holding the film comes onto the shoulders of the CHARACTERS. These endearing characters can make the film work. At the same time, it’s not also a series or a soap opera where a viewer can indulge in the characters. The writer has around two hours to tell the entire narrative.
With this preface, let’s look at the central character (or the protagonist), Sid Mehra (played by Ranbir Kapoor).The title of the film itself suggests the journey of the hero. Sid is a laidback, carefree guy who isn’t serious about his life at all. His affluent family can afford his attitude but when he is thrown out of the house can he afford it himself? And mainly, should he?
As his journey starts, everything that was at his disposal back at home is taken away. But that doesn't make him change overnight. People in real life don’t change suddenly then why should our hero? His worldview is so rigid that he still tries to find an easy way out. He has never done anything out of his comfort zone before and that’s why he doesn’t know how to deal with this situation. Sid becomes a fish out of the water.
The writers should know this character in depth. Although, it’s true that the core problem defines the character in the story, it can also give strength to the character. The core problem can be looked at as a double-edged sword. Given the right perspective, the character may draw the strength from the same place. In WHIPLASH (2014) Andrew’s life and career is screwed by his music teacher but in the end, he can play the drums like never before because of the same teacher. Here because of Sid's laidback nature, he has a distinctive way of looking at the world; out of which his liking in photography is developed. Later in the journey the same skill of photography comes to his help.
AISHA, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl?
As per Hollywood’s definitions, the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ is a type of stock female character who is perfect for the hero and who completes him. (There are also Manic Pixie Dream Boys in the stories in female-centric narratives).
Here, Aisha Banerjee (played by Konkona Sen Sharma) plays that part in Sid's life. She is an independent, mature, focused, working professional; basically, everything that he is not. In love stories, this is how the characters are generally conceived.They are opposite to each other so they can complement each other. In the stories with internal arcs, the love-interest is also a manifestation of what's lacking in the hero. Okay, so this is the theory! But how to make this catalyst unique & three-dimensional? Otherwise, this character can be easily stereotypical. If that happens, the entire story might fall flat.
During the initial sequence with Ayesha, we can see her vulnerability where she tells Sid that she is afraid to be alone in a city like Mumbai. She isn’t just the epitome of perfection for Sid, she is also a human being with her own fear. The difference is, in spite of her fear, she steps out of her comfort zone, something that our hero will never do. The other time we see her vulnerable is when she feels out of place at a Jazz party with her boss. She keeps calling Sid an immature person to feel superior herself, but here she feels the same. As she helps Sid to grow, he also becomes an inseparable part of her journey and like an ideal love story both of them complete each other.
Sid’s Family - Good Cop, Bad Cop
Let’s look at secondary charactes in Wake Up Sid. The boy is brought up lovingly by his parents. Like any typical Indian mother, his mother Sarita Mehra (played by Supriya Pathak) is very protective of him so it's his father Ram Mehra (played by Anupam Kher) who has to become the bad cop. The father had got married at a young age; has taken the responsibility of the family; started the business from scratch and has achieved success and wealth. Due to the alfa-male issues, Sid neither wants to follow the same journey nor to associate himself with his father's business. But a hero can’t make convenient choices in his life, just like us! So, the father wants Sid not to take any perks of the business if he is ashamed of it.
The mother remains the good cop and maintains his emotional connect with the house. Eventually, when she tells Sid that his liking for photography has come from his father, the broken thread is rejoined.
Supporting characters neither are complete in themselves nor they are just passing through the world of our hero; unless it's a multi-track film. They have significant roles/function in the hero’s journey.
Laxmi (played by Shikha Talsania) can identify herself with Sid's failure as she is struggling with her own. She also knows what is good for him & brings him his camera. Rishi (played by Namit Das) is what Sid could have been, had he followed the normal life - college, girlfriend, break-up, job. Sid always takes him for granted as his partner in crime. So, when Rishi doesn’t fail in the exam with him, it hurts Sid a lot.
Often, a few constant characters are needed in the story; so that in their reference we can see the change in our hero’s life. Rishi plays that part, as well. Debbie (played by Shruti Bapna) is another small but significant character. We see her only twice in the film but she leaves an impact on the hero. Sid belongs to a well-off family, so the basic struggle for survival is out of question for him. Debbie has gone through it and has succeeded in her career. Her presence is significant to make Sid feel small about himself. Even the smaller parts such as Tanya (Sid’s colleague in the magazine), Kabir (Aisha’s boss), Chotu (Sid’s house-help) are written carefully.
It’s a good thing when the characters in the story evolve from the protagonist. They help the hero to achieve his/her goal by either helping the hero directly or being a hindrance in his/her journey. Some of the characters are also written to make the hero’s journey accessible to the viewer. It is very important to assign appropriate functions to the characters. What is very difficult (and crucial) is to find a perfect note for every character in the story so s/he shouldn’t unsuitably overpower the scene or the film but should do his/her job well. Wake up Sid is a good example where the writer has achieved this balance successfully by giving the characters the depth and context they needed. The deliberative character design of Wake up Sid makes the world of the story real and the hero’s journey engaging.
So, that’s it for Wake Up Sid. Next, I will take up another film to analyse and discuss it’s significant aspects, from a script point of view. My series will focus on some of the mainstream Hindi films of past ten years that are known for good screenwriting. Let me know your views about my observations, or any queries, in the comment box below or email me.