Thursday, January 7, 2010

3 Idiots

            Directed by Rajkumar Hirani of Munna Bhai MBBS fame, 3 Idiots is a 2009 Bollywood film with screenplay by Abhijat Joshi. Based on Chetan Bhagat's novel 5 Point Someone, 3 Idiots stars Aamir Khan, R. Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Kareena Kapoor,Omi Vaidya, Parikshit Sahni, and Boman Irani.

         The film is a story of three friends and their experience as students in an engineering college. Farhan Qureshi (R. Madhavan), Raju Rastogi (Sharman Joshi), and Rancchoddas "Rancho" Shyamaldas Chanchad (Aamir Khan) are three engineering students who share a room in a hostel at the fictional Imperial College of Engineering, one of the best colleges in India. Farhan and Raju are average students whose goal in life is to study, get marks to pass and support their families after obtaining an engineering degree. Rancho comes across as this genius who is unconventional and studies for the sheer joy of learning. He is unorthodox in his views and always stands out with his creative answers and smart replies.

         The plot moves on to show their developing friendship, and their struggles in coping with the course. With Rancho's free spirit and undeniable talent, the professor, who they call Virus, is threatened, labeling him an idiot and trying to destroy his friendship with Farhan and Raju. However, their friendship holds good till the end. Mean while Rancho falls in love with professor's daughter Pia (Kareena Kapoor) who he rescues from a potential disastrous marriage to a man who is extremely materialistic and seems to want to marry Pia only to up his social ladder.

          Exam results reveal Rancho as the top ranker and his friends in the last two positions. Rancho's coming in first place agitates Chatur ("Silencer") who the professor sees as the ideal student. Chatur is one who is behind high scores, which he believes is the ladder to success and that this can be achieved by rote learning. The three friends ultimately find their dreams and follow their heart in doing what they want.

           I found the film interesting for two reasons. One, is the courage of the director in bringing out the alarmingly flawed Indian Education System and secondly for the portrayal of life as a web of relationships that is so endearing and admirable. The film celebrates the challenger, the innovator, the one who breaks all barriers to overcome hurdles that come in the way in realizing one's dream, and the passion with which one must live life. Rancho's character stands out greatly in achieving this. He is the one who inspires and leads. Although a bit overdone at a few places, the film overall does well for it's theme and message that it gives out.

          It brings out the complete uselessness of rote learning. The Indian Education System has, for long been following a regimented pattern of learning where students are taught from the books, with hardly any practical knowledge. Parents dream of their child being either an engineer or a doctor. This trend has been ingrained for so many years, that it has turned out to be the "norm" for many children, where they simply have no choice. Under the pressure of fulfilling their parents' dream, they struggle to get through the course, some giving up in the attempt. The suicide by Joy Lobo in the film encapsulates the mental trauma faced by many students in the country. Not given an extension for the submission of his project on humanitarian grounds, he is driven to the extreme step, as his life depended on his completion of the degree.

          Echoing the experience of many students, I as a student felt empathetic towards the characters. I being an Arts student, consider myself very lucky to be given the freedom to choose what I wanted to do. Yet I find the conflict also lies in choosing what one really wants. When one is confused, you'd rather do what everyone is doing than taking the risk of delving into shaky grounds. A passion can remain a hobby, and is not seen as a career in itself in many cases. In today's material driven world, 3 Idiots brings out the vanity with which people live, surviving in a lie, blinded from one's true desires. The film teaches abandonment of exterior signs of success that seem to determine your "status" in society.

           The friendship between the three characters is very heartwarming. In college, one makes friends for life, who stand by you at all times. With the sea of people one meets in college, why is it that most of us end up being with a few? Either we are roommates, or have common interests, or simply enjoy each other's company. In the process of spending time with each other, certain bonds are shared and trust develops. Director Rajkumar Hirani has brought out this bond between the three friends beautifully.

          The film falters at places and gets a bit unrealistic at times, but these scenes are forgivable for the larger good it does to the viewers.

      Watch it for its delectable characters, spirited story and heartening message.


  1. I appreciate the way you've filtered the essence of the theme from the accompanying gloss. Though I've heard enthusiastic appraisals from a broad group of people, almost all seemed to focus only on the story, the acting or the dialogues. While You, after providing due attention to the characters and the story, have skillfully steered the spotlight to the finer, yet more substantial aspects. Well written.

    A few thoughts that crossed my mind when I read your analysis. The existing Education System focuses on the end outcome (marks in exams) and not the process of learning to obtain those results. Grades, the cherries on the pie, are considered synonymous with good jobs, wealthy lifestyles and a prominent social status. Parents pushing their children to be doctors or engineers can, in most cases, be considered an extension of their love. Each parent loves to see their kids comfortable and well settled..If a career path seems to promise these fruits, they tend to persist. When this love borders on obsession, extreme cases, like the suicide you mentioned, happen.

    I liked your mention of how "3 Idiots brings out the vanity with which people live, surviving in a lie". While there are exceptions, its distressing to see a growing section of people abandoning their dreams to dive deeper into the material aspects of existence. A subtle sentence of yours that opens up a wider field for thought.

    I believe that if you are truly passionate of the hobby you want to pursue, you will find, or if need be, build a path to get there. Your grit to withstand the odds is that which
    would set you apart.

  2. Nice post, No doubt the Indian Education System is faulty but people like you and me came from the same system and i guess we are doing well in our own good ways, and when we talk about parental aspirations of wanting their kids to be a Dr or an Engineer, the director has been very unbiased towards that by highlighting that all they want is their kids to have Economic freedom. And may be, being a Dr or an Engineer does guarantee one that. But none the less, the media is absorbing a lot of art students and the vibrant financial world is absorbing commerce grads like me. I guess the focus towards making these degrees more saleable would solve the problem.

  3. "Watch it for its delectable characters, spirited story and heartening message."

    Watched it. Didn't like it. Amir's annoyingly pretentious character. Preachy, cliched and contrived storyline. And the whole movie seemed so unoriginal - the trite, timeworn humor (the urban myth of the super-pen, starting a motor, etc), the central Dr-Engr premise...don't we know it all and seen it all before? Give me Dead Poet's Society any day. Or Finding Forrester. Or even Patch Adams.

    Highly disappointed that it could have been much better with a more subtle treatment. Not that I'm against it's comedic genre...loved Ferris Beuller's Day Off!

    I agree with points you've made. But for me, a movie is not about 'what' it is about. It is about 'how' it is what it's about. If that makes any sense! :)

  4. Hey zulf, nice post

    Indians are very conservative in many things, our savings rate is one of the highest in the world, we are highly reluctant to take any sort of risk. MBBS and engg degrees were perceived as safe bets by most parents. But the world has changed now and i am sure the youngsters today are willing to pursue their interest and be sucessful in fields which they like.

  5. very beautifully articulated. i"m very impressed. i'm really naive as to how your work goes or how you are supposed to review films but honestly i think u have really done a good job. why i'm saying this is because many of us have watched the movie, familiarised with it, felt good about it and forgotten about it. but i think its highly improbable that how much of the movie actually makes sense and has a very important message to reach out across to the scores of young people who suffer from indecision or in some cases wrong decisions. you have made it very thought provoking indeed. i'm glad that there are gifted people like you in the world who can draw the focus on certain issues which go unnoticed otherwise. please keep up the wonderful work.

  6. @ Fee: Thanks for your well thought out comment. Your line "Each parent loves to see their kids comfortable and well settled..If a career path seems to promise these fruits, they tend to persist" explains the pressure kids have to face these days, as who can really predict the "fruits" of one's passion until the chance to pursue that passion is given? Perhaps we need to deconstruct the word "Fruits" in this context. From what we have been taught, fruit does seem to be material. Being able to afford a good life and meet all expenses.

    In the movie, when Madhavan's character explains to his father about how even if he somehow completed his engineering, he would be a bad engineer, but if he was given a chance to be a wildlife photographer, even if life might not be as luxurious materially, he would be happy, shows us the aspect of inner satisfaction. Happiness seems to be the right judging factor of success. In whatever form, it is, what ultimately matters in life.

  7. @ Saurabh: True, that times are changing and people like you and me are products of the same system and we have turned out just fine. It's still a matter of concern that the "system" we are talking about has miles to go, and "attitudinal change" is the biggest measure of a transformation. Only when we stop thinking rigidly, can everyone freely pursue careers of one's choice.

    Making a degree saleable, as you mentioned may seem like the immediate and most convenient way to provide respite to agonized parents who are not convinced of the "market-value" of a degree, but that is exactly where we lose out on the purpose of learning. It is complex. To learn to live and to merely survive is what we need to decide. Change will set things right.

  8. @ Nabil: Not everyone knows it all. For Bollywood to take up an issue as this in the way it has been shown, I feel, works well for the average Indian audience. It also works for those who know they are part of the system or connected in some or the other way, yet are afraid to face it. The ("timeworn") humor creates a sense of catharsis for the viewers who are aware that they are watching an entertaining movie, yet subtly also understand the larger message that the film is trying to drive at. Not all elements in a film need to be like a "Dead Poets Society" or "Finding Forrester".

    It's very important to keep in mind the audience at hand and the society from which we come from. The film as a medium, I feel has a responsibility to its viewers in creating the right balance according to their sensibilities. Understanding the minds of the viewers is what distinguishes the acceptability/non-acceptability factor of any film. The Context is Crucial. Like I mentioned, the film falters in many areas, but one must appreciate the guts with which the Director showed us the futility of our Education System. He was able to drive home a point that matters to our population.

    So how it is what it's about might have just been the right mix to serve a larger purpose, because in the end the "what" is what people will remember.

  9. @ Ajith: Thankyou Ajith for sharing your opinion. Your thoughts echo Saurabh's. Let's hope that mentalities change with Globalisation and people need not "pursue" false happiness.

    @ Paroma: I am duly humbled by your compliments. Thanks so much for the support and encouraging words. I believe that a film that has an issue brought out in whatever form, seeps into the minds of the viewers. The only difference lies in whether that message affects us enough to discuss it, and enough to dissect its intended purpose. Once we realize this, we have not only done justice to the Director's efforts, but also to ourselves as responsible viewers.

  10. I just happened to see the movie couple of weeks back.Thank you so much for helping me re-live the movie.I really appreciate the way you have critiqued the movie,you know sometimes the characters in this movie reminds me of the three of us.cheers to our friendship.

  11. Aww Shru..thats so sweet! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.. it does remind me of the three of us too!miss it!

  12. Agreed.. last few paragraph are very good.. words were quite associative.. because I felt the same when finished the movie.. well written with good flow..

    add some critique next delivery scene was quite unlikely...

  13. Thanks Bru!The delivery scene was intended to be included in the "unrealistic scenes" I've made a passing comment about. The reason I did not elaborate is because I did not find it significant enough in the larger purpose of the film.

  14. CUT, COPY & PASTE…oops….Mr. Hirani was heard shouting before he realized that he had to say LIGHTS, CAMERA & ACTION…
    Starting from the script & class jokes to the scene in Shimla where a photographer is clicking photographs of Burqa Clad women (some of the scenes were actually INSPIRED by the daily email forwards we get) …Mr. Rajkumar Hirani has actually put a dent on his reputation of being creative. Cummon Mr. Hirani, I respected you a lot specially after ‘Gandhigiri’. But hats off for compiling all the stolen work together. It really needs a genius to put everything together as its said “Nakal ke liye bhi Akal ki jaroorat hoti hai”
    Loosely based on Chetan Bhagat’s bestseller Five Point Someone, 3 Idiots is now awful at all…but since when did ‘not bad’ become ‘ok’? What I fail to understand is that why somebody who told us of the last day of college some decades ago, still play a young student? Aamir played the ‘underdog’ school boy in Jo Jeeta wohi sikander and we loved him for his brilliant performance as ‘Sanjay Lal aka Sanju’…but somehow this time he didn't fit well as a young college student…Imran, his niece was better qualified ( only Age wise ).
    Three idiots is a very average Bollywood masala that pretends to be making a point which is lost in the film later. It was a perfect commercial venture by the threesome and somehow we got inspired…yes there is definitely a powerful message in the movie and I should thank the threesome for highlighting the least they took the lead and produced a well compiled series of incidents in the lives of three students from different backgrounds which represent a good proportion of the population of India, thus communicating well with the “Junta” who smiles, laughs, cries & gets inspired for the next few hours…

    Zulfiya, well analysed and observed...specially"brings out the vanity with which people live, surviving in a lie, blinded from one's true desires...

  15. Thanks Ujjwal for your detailed observations! Trying to understand why Aamir took up the role of a college kid despite the obvious age and looks discrepancy remains a mystery to me! It has no logical reasoning except for the fact that our industry still thrives on the age-worn actors to guarante a "success" with no concern whatsoever about whether the character is realistic in a particular actor's shoes. Maybe we are too afraid to try out someone new? Or we simply don't have enough promising talent to convince us about a more believable portrayal?

    Credit goes to Mr. Hirani however, for his bold attempt at touching upon a subject that we have all faced at some point in our lives, in the course of our education, and finding our true calling.

  16. Hey Zul, I never knew you were one among "three idiots" until I read Shruthi's...

    I saw it and I could not recall even a single scene until it revisited as I read your review... You did it so well, now I like the movie too.. good, it is that you observe and give an overall impact of it to our day to day affairs...very well done, your positive critique mind.

    I like the message "3 idiots" has professed in simple and funny way, leave aside how aesthetically fit!

    In the real job market, engineering holds its own weight. See, how they are absorbed in IT leaving aside all other degree holders. Even poor doctors would have liked to go for engineering choice (someone confessed to me) seeing the fat purse.

    however, "education is the ability to meet life's situations" - no matter which degree one holds.

  17. Perfectly put! Education is definitely the ability to meet life's situations. Whatever our purpose in life may be, what drives us is passion to do what we love the most. Without that, life will turn out to be a drab and painful affair.
    Materilistic wealth, is the ends to many people's satisfaction, and perhaps that explains why, like you mentioned, poor doctors would like to have gone for Engineering for the fat purse.

  18. i dont know why people go on to blaming the education system to be faulty and useless while there are people in worst conditions than us, people who truely dont have proper education system for them. instead of blaming the so called "Education system" we should look upon ourselves on how well we are able to utilise the education that we are already receiving. we are still a developing nation, we should first concentrate on providing atleast some form of education to the underprivileged and then go on to improving the quality. blaming the 'education system' is just and excuse. anyways...
    ive got two words "Happy Days", its a telugu film based on the theme of engineering life. sure it does not have aamir khan( who seems a total retard in 3 idiots), but i think its way beter than 3 idiots.

  19. @ AKM: Thanks for your valuable comment. You are absolutely right in saying that we must first learn to provide for the needy before starting to complain about something that may be a luxury for many. The main flaw in our country is that we retain our class status by providing educational opportunities to the already affluent and keep the image of quality with high expenses.

    I will definitely try and watch "Happy Days", as you have suggested.