Friday, April 22, 2011
#107: 3 Idiots
A team of Rajkumar Hirani and Aamir Khan in marketing terms will never be short of consumer insight. As academic as it may sound, all it means is that these are both men who will know exactly what appeals to a consumer. There is no other explanation for the fact that the man who came up 'Jaadu ki jhappi' also is the man who came up with 'Gandhigiri'. Similarly, Aamir's last five movies on the other hand have not just been box office hits but also been examples of genre-defining, trend-setting, high-quality cinema. When two people of such stature come together, the output has to be special. And 3 Idiots is not just special, it's deliciously special.
There's not much to write about in terms of a plot because the movie's about a journey in the lives of 3 friends in an engineering college. It tells us the tale of everything around them from their dreams to their fears, from their families to their professors and from their pranks to their ambitions. The underlying element in any Raju Hirani movie is the message that the movie is carrying and 3 Idiots takes a funny but a relateable route to making a point about the ills in our education system. The funny part of the script should be attributed to Hirani and his actors. The relateable part of the script should be attributed to the original author of the book on which the movie is based - Chetan Bhagat.
Hirani, with his writing partners Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Abhijat Joshi, brings the story alive on screen. Yes, there are quite a few liberties thrown in- like the scene in which Aamir's scooty drives right into the foyer of a busy hospital or that delivery scene with Mona Singh. If the first instance was shoddily weak, the second bordered on the absurd. And yet if the movie works it is because of the two oldest tricks in the filmmaking books- those that speak of character definition and acting that delivers. So Rancho (Aamir) is the gifted student, Raju (Sharman Joshi) is industrious, Chatur (Omi Vaidya) is sly and Farhan (R. Madhavan) is the guy-next-door with closet dreams of becoming a photographer and ambition to get a well-paying job. And let's not forget what was probably the character act of the decade in Bollywood- Boman Irani as Prof. Sahastrabudhe. For his is an out-of-the-galaxy-of-Milky Way kind of performance. His act is comic and cruel at the same time and it takes an actor of great caliber to pull something like this off.
3 Idiots is the highest grossing Bollywood movie of all time. Something has to be clinically right about it but it's not. It's flawed but it works because it works on consumer insights. Between Aamir and Hirani, they exactly know what is the point that makes an Indian movie-goer laugh, the exact kind of joke that just gets a giggle and the one that elicits a roar, a scene that makes you go weak in the knees and the scene that leaves a lump in your throat. They just know it and in Bollywoodland where quality is at a premium, they stand tall with their choices of scripts. It's because of them that we have a movie that any movie-goer in India should pay any amount to watch because this is the pinnacle of feel-good cinema.