Immediately after I came back from the screening, I thought this was the best movie ever made. After a while, though, the euphoria ebbed: it’s not the best, but it is a darn good movie anyway. It’s the effervescence of the characters that one gets caught up in, and you come away from the movie with a bit of their energy flowing through you, that makes you feel it’s a great movie. Hmm, there, that should set expectations for what follows.
The movie is about how the education system (the film is about the system in India, but I’m pretty sure it applies to most of the world) stresses more on grades and learning by rote, than actually gaining knowledge. Throughout the movie, almost every incident drives home the distinction between ‘understanding’ versus ‘remembering’. It is about how one should do what the heart wants, and not falling for peer pressure or pressure to be someone you are not. But is it possible for a message to be repeated just a little too much? Naaah..
3 Idiots starts off being absolutely hilarious, with ragging scenes from an engineering college. We sure didn’t find it funny when it happened to us back in college, but hey, it’s always funny when someone else is on the receiving end. The characters are very well defined… and most of the people who play students are, well, real students, so that wouldn’t have been too tough. The 3 Idiots themselves are older, with the ‘lead’, Aamir Khan being close to 45 years… that the people still accept him as a kid out of school and stepping into college is just testament to his brilliance. Not that he’s done this for the first time, but more on that later.
When going into most Bollywood movies, once should be prepared for a mixed bag. There are really very few true comedies, or drama etc. Usually, comedy movies would have some romance thrown in, and some bit of action too. Maybe even a social message thrown in for good measure. Is it possible for a message to be repeated just a little too much? Naaah.. Anyway, 3 Idiots remains funny till then end, but does have a little bit of romance thrown in (how else would you throw a beautiful damsel in the plot!), and a lot of drama in the second half. The director, Rajkumar Hirani, is known for making stuff like this earlier: his Munnabhai series was hugely popular, and added several new words to the general vocabulary. He excels at making really funny movies, which drive home a point. The main ‘negative character’ in his Munnabhai series, the very talented Bomman Irani, is also the main negative character in 3 Idiots. I say ‘negative character’, and not ‘villian’, because Hirani is too kind-hearted to make anyone a villain – he makes them warm and loveable, just flawed. He makes them human. So, while the movie is really funny, people came out from movie all red-eyed. The movie makes you cry in the happy scenes, and it makes you cry in the sad ones. That’s typical Bollywood for you.
In a way, this movie is actually a lot of good bits of past movies thrown together – not in terms of the plot, but the casting. That’s probably a reason why everyone seems to have played their character so well: simply because they have done it at least once before: while Bomman Irani plays the college director who wants the kids who question his methods out of the college, he’s repeating his role in Munnabhai where he’s the principal of a medial college, and wants the hero out of his college. Aamir’s first big hit, about 20 years ago, a film called Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, also featured him as a school kid, and actually had him singing a song about what he’ll do once he grows up. We all know how that went! The very capable Sharman Joshi, who’s slowly started getting his due, is known for the many movies he’s done where he’s been part of a group of 3-4 friends, so he must’ve been on familiar turf in 3 Idiots. In fact, the 3 Idiots themselves, the same lot, also formed the cast of another one of Aamir’s hits, called Rang De Basanti just a couple of years ago. In Aamir’s last hit movie, Taare Zameen Par (international DVD released yesterday: 12/Jan/2010, Stars on Earth by Walt Disney Company), Aamir had taken up cudgels with the education system, concentrating on how dyslexic kids are often misunderstood. Looks the like director has taken the best of recent movies, and taken the best bits out of those, and used that very cleverly in a new setting. No wonder the films such a hit. But, is it possible for a message to be repeated just a little too much? Naaah..
The film create characters who one bumps into everyday … and certainly during college, and mirrors hostel life so unnervingly accurately, that one becomes a part of the movie in no time. One relates to stuff that’s happening on-screen, even if it didn’t happen to oneself… but growing up, these incidents are so commonly passed around when old friends catch up, that it was about time someone put it in a movie. From “Millimeter”, the man-Friday, to “Silencer”, the expat who comes back to India for his further education, but doesn’t understand Hindi, the characters and their portrayal is so real, you feel you knew someone like that back in college. That just adds up to the mass appeal of the movie: for kids, it’s something to look forward to, for college students, it’s a way to laugh about stuff they are actually pressured with, while for others, it brings back memories. It’s not long before you start looking for yourself in the movie – and you’ll probably find someone who reminds you of you. With scenes that could’ve been from anyone’s past, it’s hard to figure out if the story is really based on the book ‘Five Point Someone’ by Chetan Bhagat, as everyone says (but the people in the film deny), hence the controversy.
In fact, in a movie with characters so well and strongly defined, the only ‘unreal’ character was the lead – Aamir’s “Rancho” super-smart, can-do-no-wrong, always-knows-what-to-do act pushes things a little too far. His ‘do what you heart wants’ becomes ‘do who your heart wants’ (which works out in this case)… and there’s a couple of things he does, which should have a mandatory “Don’t try this at home” written under it. I can’t mention what it is, without giving it away, but don’t worry, you’ll know when you see it. Even the way things turn out in the end is very unrealistic (unfortunately, and unlike other Aamir’s films), but hey, that’s Bollywood for you. At the time of writing this, 3 Idiots has already become the biggest Bollywood grosser of all time, so hey, what do I know. So, is it possible for a message to be repeated just a little too much? Oh, well, maybe a bit.
Should you watch the movie? Definitely. Don’t miss it for anything. This is what movies are all about, with real-actors who move you with their performances. There’s no CGI here, and you will feel the warmth of the characters that was missing in Avatar. If Avatar’s an experience, 3 Idiots is a satisfying experience. You’ll come out feeling happier, and an evening well spent.