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Some Ramblings - 3 Idiots
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla
3 idiots

Just what is this movie about, or on second thought, what did it set out to achieve? Was the aim of the makers to make a funny film about a serious issue or just a funny film? To dig in even more, what is the purpose of this movie - to engage the audience or mainly to entertain? If the answer is veering more towards the second option, probably, a different yardstick need to be brought out, while discussing about its merits. First, the good words. Aamir Khan deserves every penny of his prize money. In a script that just couldn't decide what it wanted to be in the first place, the man tries to make good of every over-wrought situation, by simply committing to the moment and the sincerity certain comes across in his performance. The honesty he brings to the role pours out of his every pore. The role of his is essentially a miracle man, who can do all and be all. He is supposedly brilliant, boisterous, chirpy, chivalrous, dutiful, deviant, puerile and prudent. The role sound like a thick soup of mixed and contrasting emotions, a confusing combination that would make even a well seasoned producer, adept at selling even a sentiment-love-action-drama-comedy-supenseful thriller movie, stop short and scratch his head. Yet Aamir Khan rises above the ridiculousness and makes best of the role he is handed. Second, the words. The dialogues (particularly the one-liners) are indeed funny and the actors delivered them in perfect pitch. The movie looks good, thanks to the good camera work. Bomman Irani, as usual, turns in another good performance, albeit an encore to the first Munnabhai outing. To sum up, the acting is first rate, the dialogues, quite good and the technical work, impressive. So, what seems to the problem with the movie?

Now, the bad news. In short, they are all in the wrong movie. The story is so completely out of tune, phase and focus, as it relates to the actors and technicians supporting it. The story pitch might have just been 'Munnabhai B.Tech' and the talent and the money automatically got attached to the project, with no one even asking the fundamental question as to what the movie was supposed to be about. To start with, the 'One flew over the cuckoo's nest' formula is all there. The establishment that is straight-jacketed, rigid, inflexible, and at times, even evil. And much to the chargin of the powers-that-be, in walks the maverick, flouting the rules, questioning the motives and defying the law of the land. The same formula that worked fabulously with 'Munnabhai MBBS', this time around falls flat, comes across as fake, lacking all the bubble and fizz, that made the lovable goon even endearing. The problem is not the formula; it is the setting. The education system doesn't lend itself to be superficially glossed over with the same brand of comedy, same dosage of irreverence and similar dash of anti-establishment flavor, as riling against a more simple humane treatment of people theme. The education system is too complex an issue to be tackled with the same joke-poke routine and any effort in that direction comes across as silly and childish. And the oft-repeated claim of the script that competition ruins creativity and eventually drives students to suicides (even giving a lame statistic that India has the largest contingent of the suicide committing student population) as though suicide is the only resort to flunking and non-graduating students, borders on irresponsibility. By making the protagonist a part of the system, though on the side that bears the brunt, the message is further muddled by showing him rise through the ranks availing the same resources. Mugging up the answers is the only way to top in the current system, he declares, while conveniently ignoring that the same system did not prevent him from being brilliant, which leads to believe, that the system, even with its own intrinsic faults, is not to be blamed entirely for the all the evils and plagues. If two people availing the same facilities end up on either side of the success spectrum, where does the fault lie - with the individual or the system? Even if the end goal of the individual is the score good and secure a gainful employment, the system never went goes out of its way to not impart the knowledge, but instead only give him to requisite tools of the trade. Whose fault is it to not capitalize on the benefits that the system has to offer and instead rue on its failings? It is always easy being a flame-thrower at the system, and many times more difficult being a torch bearer of the change. And Hirani unfortunately tried the former way with '3 Idiots', while meeting with great success and acclaim following the second path in 'Lage Raho'. He conveniently forgot what he depicted (as the Mahatma preached) - Be the change you want to see around.

The methodology that he employs to drive (hard) home his beliefs is the same 'scene-moral' approach, in it, each scene or a situation comes with a nice moral wrapped in a neat bow-tie at the end of it, and often with the lead characters crying copiously of changed hearts and beliefs. And the dry wit, that the domestic situation of one of the characters is straight out of an old black and white melodramatic Hindi movie, applies equally well to the entire movie. And when all failed, the resorting to the scatological humor is even more depressing. The major mistake that Hirani committed, while committing to '3 Idiots' was trying to ape his earlier success with MBBS. It would had made a world of difference, had he used 'Lage Raho' as his muse. Either way, it would have benefited from a Munnabhai than a Ranchoddas.

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This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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