3 Idiots: A Review

3 Idiots – Dir: Rajkumar Hirani; *ing: Aamir Khan, Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Kareena Kapoor, Boman Irani

By now you’ve either already seen the film and are in raptures, or you’re waiting in line to see it while basking in the raptures of somebody who’s already seen it, or you’re a Bollywood-dissing curmudgeon who doesn’t give a toss about anyone’s raptures. Such is the state created among moviegoers by 3 Idiots, the latest offering from Rajkumar ‘Munna Bhai’ Hirani – you either love it, are loving it in anticipation, or you don’t watch Hindi movies. But now, I daresay, with this review, there is a fourth option: you can also simply like it. For it is certainly a well-shot, expertly directed, cleverly written (for the most part) piece of cinema that, like the two Munna Bhai films, has its heart squarely in the right place. It does, however, lack a certain je nais sais quoi that made especially Munna Bhai M.B.B.S such a refreshing experience, that elusive, unassuming, raw energy that almost always gets left behind after a filmmakers’ breakthrough work.

Once again, Hirani tackles the issue of the human spirit versus conformist societal expectations. The Idiots of the title are three engineering students at a prestigious Delhi University where their nemesis is the rigid, intolerant, lisping Professor Sahastrabuddhe (Irani – marvelous as always), who expects nothing but hard-backed discipline and absolute, unquestioning adherence to the unwritten rules of the educational system. And if that system, being a microcosm of the world at large, demands the sacrifice of individuality, and chews up and spits out anyone unwilling to make that sacrifice, well then, so be it – that’s the way the cookie crumbles. And so Farhan Qureshi (Madhavan) hangs by the skin of his teeth at the institution, even though at heart he’s a nature-loving photographer, not a bridge-builder, just because that’s what his father wishes him to be. Raju (Joshi) scrapes by with rotten grades because he’s too mortified of doing badly to do well. It’s only leading idiot Rancho (Khan) who dances to own tune, thumbing the proverbial nose at the administration and its blinkered regulations. Of course, being a genius, he can afford to do so. As he can, also, to romance the Professor’s daughter Pia (Kapoor), and torment his academic rival Chatur Ramamlingam (brilliant Omi Vaidya). But can the three of them overcome their weaknesses and still be successful without selling out? Will Sahastrabuddhe see the error of his non-progressive ways? Did Aamir Khan Botox his way into a role that requires him to look twenty years younger than he is?

3 Idiots is, by and large, wonderfully engaging; the script by Vidhu Vinod Chopra has a cunningly irreverent tone and is stacked with some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Watch out particularly for the screamingly funny vignettes about Raju’s poverty-stricken parivaar – very rarely has Hindi cinema milked such black comedy out of such potentially tragic situations – “It takes 30 minutes for pizza to get delivered but 2 hours and the ambulance still isn’t here!”

What the film lacks are compelling characters; other than Sahastrabuddhe (who is also not so much a creation of the writer as the actor playing him) and Ramalingam, the film’s protagonists just aren’t terribly memorable, which is the result of so-so character sketching as well as middling performances. There is no breakout personality here, like, say, Circuit (played by Arshad Warsi) in the Munna Bhai films. It also doesn’t help that, once again, the only sizable female part in the entire film is that of vapid love interest. (There does seem to be a general dearth of women in Hirani’s films – you’d think the university contained herein is a single-sex institution so few feminine faces do you see in it).

But worry not; at the end of it, you’ll have a fairly entertaining time with these idiots.

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