Sunday, December 27, 2009

3 Idiots: An endearing experience !!

I start with a question to all engineers reading this: Can you truly claim to have seen this movie and not felt, somewhere deep down, a tinge of sadness thinking about how those four years could actually have turned out ? Rajkumar Hirani's latest offering definitely touched a nerve somewhere. And which is why I, an engineer having a degree that says 'passed with distinction' but who does not do much beyond changing light bulbs at home, call '3 Idiots' an endearing experience.

More than a laugh riot, it is one of the first movies that takes on India's illogical, high-pressure, learn-by-rote centric higher education system. A system that venerates the cuckoo who begins life by destroying his competition. A system where the teachers pet is the guy who can reel off text book definitions without even pausing to think on what he is blabbering. A system into which many people end up trying to like what they are doing, rather than doing what they like. Into this system, at one of the country's premier engineering colleges (located at our IIM Bangalore campus ;-)) comes Rancho. A non-conformist, an iconoclast. Right from the beginning, when he wards off his seniors at the ragging sessions (seems to have become a Hirani patent) with an ingenious use of common physics (hopefully it will not be repeated at engineering hostels across the country), he comes across as someone who does not want to be part of the rat-race, even though he ranks first. Someone who is at the college because his heart wants to be there. And it is this that endears him to his two room-mates, Raju (who is one of the millions of young men for whom an engineering degree is the passport to prosperity) and Farhan (who has simply been bulldozed by his father into studying engineering while his heart lies in the jungle). But this also causes Rancho to cross swords with the tough-as-nails dean of the institute Veeru (Boman Irani in another repeat Hirani character). What follows is a sequence of events through which Hirani addresses various ugly facets of higher education in India, whether it be the unfortunate student suicides, or the emphasis on learning by rote (the hilarious teachers day speech).

For me, what stood out about the movie was that Hirani gets his message across without restoring to melodrama or heavy histrionics. In fact, there is always the danger of the audience missing the message amidst all the gags and comedy. For example, he could have ended the movie with Rancho delivering a lengthy monologue on the ills of the education system. Instead, he chose to portray the ultimate triumph of the protagonist, who, as a scientist, not only opens a school with a scientific bend of mind for young children, but also acts as a consultant to the firm in which his former geek batchmate works. And throughout the movie there is a strong undercurrent of the serious and contemporary (note the jibe made by Rancho about engineers going on to do MBAs and then working in banks - am sure quite a few would have felt offended). And the cast supports him brilliantly. Sharman Joshi is outstanding. Boman Irani, as expected, is first-rate. The newcomer Omi registers a strong impact. Kareena stands out in a brief role. And which other seasoned actor would have got away with playing a character half his age ? Anyways, I need not comment on Aamir's performance here.

To be fair, the film is not without its flaws and exaggerations. Veeru Sahastrabuddhe, I thought, was badly caricatured. Made almost stereotypical of senior professors: curly-haired, eccentric and wearing trousers upto his belly. And a new born baby responding to 'All Izz Well' was pushing the limits of cinematic liberties a bit too far. But these are minor blemishes in an otherwise superior product. In fact, the government can do well to screen this as a part of the induction of wannabe engineers at all institutes. Even if a few 17 year olds get inspired by it and choose to be Idiots - I Do It On my TermS, the movie would have done its job.

Till then, if you havent seen the movie already, go ahead and be inspired. While all of us might not build schools in Ladakh, at least some of us can be in the place where we want to be, rather than the place where we have been pushed to.

All Izz Well...........

~ Amit

1 comment:

Alam said...

arey dada... not everyone spent all their time studying in college... i myself spent the bare minimum required... thanks to some topper friends who gave excellent crash course of the whole syllabus on the day before the exam ... and most optimally i got 9 marks more (out of 6.5K or so) than the bare minimum requisite for first class ... Maybe i could have become a super useful mechanical engineer (a discipline that i chose over all others when i entered college).. but what the heck .. who needs to stick to the script ... those were some great times... and i enjoyed them