All Izz Well

Published: January 29, 2010 - 16:47 Updated: January 29, 2010 - 16:52

What's added to the fun is the filmmakers have taken all the Bollywood clichés and turned them around just as their 3 idiots would
Sonali Ghosh Sen Delhi

i d i-ot

Pronunciation: i-dē-ət
Function: noun
1 a person affected with extreme mental retardation
2 a foolish or stupid person  

Take a long, hard look at this definition. Write it down on a piece of paper. Repeat it 20 times till you have it memorised. Then take the piece of paper, tear it and throw it in the bin. And go watch 3 Idiots at a movie hall near you.

It's a movie that's turning the dictionary definition on its head, telling you not to go by dictionary definitions alone, and question all that textbook knowledge that the Indian education system throws at you. It's in Rajkumar Hirani's language, a 'demo" of what is making this Amir Khan film the biggest box office hit of 2009.

The core message of the film is that rote learning and punishing exam schedules are creating machines out of 'original' thinkers. It's a system where grades matter more than learning, and success and ambition are equated with the materialistic wealth that they will bring. But ambition, the moviemakers say, should be made of sterner stuff. One should replace ambition with passion and success with excellence, and rewards are certainly going to follow.

This has struck a chord with repeat audiences all the way from Mumbai to Melbourne. For three hours, all of us, who have gone through the rigours of the Indian academic system, can dream of being free to do what we want, instead of following the diktat of our parents or society.

3 Idiots, in short, is a middle-class fantasy come alive for all those bankers, engineers and doctors who have always wanted to be musicians, writers or perchance, even wildlife photographers. It's relatable, because those who formed a band in college, or wrote poetry in school yearbooks, are sighing into their popcorn and thinking what if... what if we had a 'Rancho' (the film's hero) in our life, then maybe we wouldn't be watching the movie, we would probably be directing it.

It's not just the core idea that's such a hit, the movie makers have also ensured that they bring alive campus life as we ordinary mortals remember it. In Bollywood, going to college normally centres around the college canteen, bunking classes or romancing the heroine, but Raju Hirani and Abhijat Joshi (who shares the screenplay honours) keep hostel life refreshingly real.

Anyone who's lived in a hostel remembers a Chatur Ramalingam or a God- fearing Raju Rastogi. It's a slice of college life with the kind of pranks that are real, anecdotal and that bring about an instant feeling of nostalgia. Even the slightly risqué jokes remind you of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and not David Dhawan. There are fart jokes and underwear baring aplenty, but you don't have to be embarrassed, because your grandma in the movie hall is laughing the loudest at them.

One other reason for the movie earning over Rs 300 crore in just 20 days is that it is unabashedly commercial. The scriptwriters know the 'navarasa' of commercial cinema and they manipulate your emotions in this tightly edited film. They know when to make you laugh out aloud, when to wring a tear, when to add that heroic deed to the plot. They even understand the significance of the interval in a Hindi movie.

The suspense-filled interval has ensured that the popcorn and nacho counter might remain empty, but the hall remains full. What's added to the fun is that the filmmakers have taken all the Bollywood clichés and turned them around just as their 3 idiots would. The poverty-stricken family, the coma-stricken classmate, the runaway bride are handled with the deft Munnabhai touch, the director is so famous for. By spoofing the Rastogi family in black and white, or the Qureshi family's sacrifices in a believable way, even parent-progeny conflict is being appreciated, by well, parents.

Cynics might still say that the movie is too idealistic, unrealistic at times and is trying to sugarcoat serious issues. But hey, think back, isn't that what college life was all about? After we get out of the movie hall and get stuck in a traffic jam, we can reflect on the recession, unpaid EMI's, a pay cut and other such things. Till then, as they say in Hirani land, "Aal Izz Well".

What’s added to the fun is the filmmakers have taken all the Bollywood clichés and turned them around just as their 3 idiots would
Sonali Ghosh Sen Delhi

Read more stories by All Izz Well

This story is from print issue of HardNews