(Statement from the putative protagonist : All claims about 3 Idiots (based on a novel written by IIMA junior Chetan Bhagat)’s Rancho(Ryan in the book) was based on me (Rambo 1990) are entirely unverified. The putative Oriinal does notconfirm or deny the truth value of any claims made in the movie or the novel about him, both of which are works of fiction with no known basis in fact. Now people , leave me alone on this.)
Statement about the book film contraversy: Ryan in the book is more an IIT maverick tech genius experience, and Rancho in the film more an IIMA maverick . BOTH are well suited to the story and could easily have come out of real life. The IIMA/IIT experience is a shared one, in a way that the charecters feel familiar to many different batches from IIT/IIM)
I walked out of 3 idiots much the same way I walked out of Rang de basanti– Breathless with amazement at how perfectly the film captured the campus zeitgist. After I walked out, I found that my peers didn’t appreciate the film as much as I did. for one David (chute) was appalled at the sucicide bomber message of Rang de basanti. his daughter Nora(who was then in High school) had no Idea what a JNU leftist crowd was about. 3 Idiots- same thing(didn’t see 3 idiots with them, tho..Im in DC these days temporarily). Shot at IIM Bangalore, and the film itself refers thinly to only every “elite institution of learning” in India, (The IIT, The IIMs, ISB…you name it- Institutions of learning that churn out graduate degrees as cannon fodder for US universities($20,000 per year), and then the mortgage Industry($ 3000 per month), telephone companies($300 per month cell phone bills, and calling india) , Airline Industry(once a year India trip $ 5000 for the family, gifts for all relatives: priceless) and the banks(on an average a $ 60,000 Student loan after graduating),
IIM Bangalore, or WIMWI, (where you the reviewer couldn't get in if you tried.)
Hits close to home :
The film, thus, could be talking about you- the film reviewer that speaks english and studied journalism at an “elite university in new york.
You are Silencer…or a less successful version.
And hence the uncomfortable stirring…and the defensive pans…the film hits too close to home for some.
Let’s take one Step back.
3 Idiots is a campus caper film. Part Ferris Bueller (complete with a crazy headmaster and a bunch of unlikely heroics from its protagonist) , Part Munnabhai MBBS (its narrative tone is like if the uneducated 70 year old dorm kaka were talking about the kids that pass through IIMA) and part Rang de basanti (the sister soldja moments between the three idiots and moll.), the film affords everyone that passed through any “school for higher learning ” in india a few moments of nostalghia , hitherto only obtainable in greying balding, middle aged booze parties of alumni.
It is also a film full of smart capers and Indian college student steriotypes. The exagerrations are very like I might do in the distant pink glow of my memory about my college days,making the film real for some, and flatterring to others. (I used to be called RamBo on campus, Vinod, not RanCho 😉
When reports last came in, 3 Idiots had picked up a million bucks in North America over the two days of Its release and double that worldwide. Mr Chopra is doing something right, even if some of us hate his guts for it.
3 idiots is not without its faults. many of them are bollywood narrative faults. the script pursues its deamons unrelentingly. the bad headmaster must be deamonized and cariciatured until he “reforms” under the heroic spotlight cast by the protagonist(s). his deeds must be the single cause for tragedy. The hero must be larger than life (so much so that he’s the indian version of bagger vance(who himself was a dreamworks bastardization of the word Bhagavan)) , Superhuman (scientific) acts must be commited to dazzle the audience(a vacuum cleaner to deliver a baby?! I was giving the baby two weeks before it dies of post delivery complications, even if all the alcohol in student dorms must have sterilized the place somewhat) and the narrative is as if the watchman were describing dorm life.
Hirani and Chopra : Take your bows, guys!
Where it scores, however is the message in the patch adams. While Rancho is no good will hunting, he’s the technology equivalent to Hunting’s Pure science. The case being made, of how people who acquire learning as an end in itself are better at applying it , is straight out of Zen and the art of motorcycle maintanance. It is also a gut check for all those IIT grads that are really poets or Photographers, but are just doing the tech thing for the Dowry(or even just to buy a cow).
A note on campus suicides, They are very real. This is something People who buy their degrees (instead of actually competing for them) at US universities are hard pressed to understand. Most challenges of college life in the US are social. (you fall in love with that unobtainable cheerleader type who simply doesn’t get your wonderfulness, but seems to be giving it away for free to every sundry other guy). In indian schools, the challenges are academic. a substantial part of your Identity in an Indian school comes from how people percieve you academically. Not making it to a scholarship is cause for a suicide.
The fun parts of 3 idiots, though is in how the film makes light of the “insurmountable” burdens of students of WIMWI while acknoledging them. The family tragedy of Sherman Joshi in Black and white, the paralyzed father riding scotters(even as boy and girl do romance from both sides ), the ragging trope “jahanpanah…” , pee jokes, all izz well, the existential situation of Rancho(most poor students who fall in love with this GODDESS at school , who seems to like them too, but are overwhelmed by the fact that “they are not their image..she loves my image…” will identify)
Evaluated as a package, the film is a little less than the sum total of its component parts, that does not mean its not a worthy film, merely that it serves commercial ends, not artistic ones. It tries to be no more than a good timepass film for everyoen that is still in touch with his indian student identity, and also is a wake up call for those who have lost this part of themselves trying to immerse in a foreign(to them) culture, and instead are immersing in debt.
I was disturbed, entretained, challenged,conned and moved. Its the movies, boys.