An Aamir Khan film is one of the most anticipated events in India, next only to Sachin's x thousandth run and yth century. It's amazing to see Aamir's physical transformation from the almost-bald concrete-abbed Sanjay Singhania, who could break steel rods by sneezing on them, to the charming 22-year old with well-coiffed hair and a body frail enough to justify time spent in an engineering hostel mess. Rajkunod Chorani and Aamir Khan seemed strange bedfellows, but I'm glad to report that 3 Idiots has achieved the rare honour of becoming the first movie to be praised on this page. Not that I haven't liked movies before this, but I'm stuck on 13 posts for the year since October, and have to make this exception to stem the rot.
The movie is about 3 engineering students studying in Imperial College of Engineering- an institute with more applicants per year than the IITs and a worse selection ratio than Ramaiah. It is an engineering equivalent of Mohabbatein's Gurukul in that it is headed by a self-righteous control-freak (Boman Irani as Viru Sahastrabudhhe, or Virus), but one who spews equations instead of sanskaarparampaararitirivaazniyamanushaasan. It is your typical engineering college where students focus on grades and jobs, and are tested for their gigabytes and not creativity. Enter Rancho (Aamir)- a creative kid who has the engineering nous to electrocute seniors peeing outside his room and deliver babies with vacuum cleaners. His best friends and roommates - Farhan (Madhavan) and Raju (Sharman)- consistently scrape the bottom of the class while he goofs around, plays pranks, gets in trouble with Virus, but still manages to top the class thanks to his ingenuity.
The movie keeps alternating between the present -where years after college, Farhan and Raju are desperately looking for Rancho, who disappeared before the rest could catch their airborne graduation topis- and the past, which shows their experiences during college. In the course of four years Rancho manages to do the following-
1. Peeing senior electrocution and vacuum cleaner baby delivery
2. Screw up his rival-in-chief Chatur Ramalingam's Teachers Day speech by replacing chamatkaar with balaatkaar. Subsequently CR challenges him to come back to the same spot he's now standing at 10 years later and see who's more successful.
3. Break Kareena's (Boman's daughter) engagement using pudina chutney and an expensive watch
4. Create an inverter powered by car batteries
5. Make a helicopter fly
6. Drive Boman crazy
7. Save Sharman from suicide and subsequently flick question papers from Boman's office to help Sharman pass
8. Distribute free advice and convince his buddies about the therapeutic powers of chanting Aal Izz Well
9. Irritate Kareena, fall in requited love with her
10. Convince Madhavan to ditch engineering and take up wildlife photography
and much much more.
Eventually, the friends track down Rancho, who it turns out, is not Rancho but Phunsuk Wangdu - a hot shot scientist who runs an alternative school in Ladakh. The real Rancho (Javed Jaffrey) is using PW's B.Tech degree; watch the back story yourself, I'm not writing a bloody book on 3 Idiots. And in the vein of a good commercial movie, Kareena runs away from her wedding when she knows Aamir has been traced.
I loved the movie for a number of reasons. It was earnest, like all Rajkunod movies are, and had a number of laugh-out-loud moments. It reminded me of my engineering days and had some cracking lines like- It's bad to see your friend fail but worse to see him succeed (I know Greatbong has written the same, but I swear this is the only thing I've pilfered). It was not high on moral values- watch the scene in Sharman's house when Aamir and Madhavan torn between deciding whether to console Sharman or his grieving mother, choose to eat matar paneer instead; and which mainstream movie would show you a bunch of engineering students actually playing midwives delivering a baby on a TT table? If Yash Chopra had ever read this script, he would have been aghast at the sanskaarlessness of it.
The movie was also a back-handed slap on the Indian education system, which really does not encourage original thinking. I can relate to it, because I am one of those same high grades - job in US - MBA - (probably) I-bank guys Aamir was talking about. You have the occasional maverick like Aamir, but given the pitiable funding for research in India and hence the bandar-chhaap faculty, most end up chasing the pot of gold instead of enjoying the process of learning. The director's style of passing on this message did seem clichéd and needlessly melodramatic at places, but was generally humorous.
Madhavan was good as the nice, easygoing guy who never managed to rise above the last rank. What I liked is they showed him as a normal yuppie guy unlike the stereotypical image of a last-ranker who would be neck deep in ganja and daaru and be in "bad company" and do "bad things". Kareena was cute and did well whenever Hirani realized he was paying her too much to just Zoobi Doobi around. The funda of her running away from her wedding was a little stupid, but then, this was always going to be a feel-good film, which was fine by me. The guy who played Chatur was good as was Boman Irani, who managed to pull off the authoritarian director quite well. Aamir, ever the maverick, pulls off his bit quite nicely. He could have called this Taree Aasmaan Mein with him playing the grown up Ishaan Awasthi or Taare Underground with him playing the young Nikumbh; the role was really interpolated from these two. But the real star for me was Sharman Joshi, who was excellent as the kid under pressure from a poor household. This should be a career changing role for the guy, but given it's an Aamir movie, he might not get the attention he deserves. Still, hats off to his performance.
The one real weakness was the music which was so bad we all left for a collective restroom break when Zoobi Doobi played. Other than that, it is a highly recommended movie. Watch it for the humour and the performances. You'll come out saying Aal Izz Well.