There is nothing new in movies being inspired from works of fiction. However, rarely do celluloid versions surpass the books on which they are based. 3 idiots is one such rare instance. Due apologies to Mr Chetan Bhagat who is already sulking over the insufficiency of the “credit” he has been given by the makers of the film. He is bound to cringe upon hearing that the movie has turned out to be even more riveting than his debut novel which, to be fair, was not an uninteresting piece at all. Leaving aside comparisons, one would add that dissimilarities between the movie and the novel far outnumber the similarities. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Rajkumar Hirani, who made no little impact with his “Munnabhai” series, has delivered what has so far been his best.
The movie is much more than a critique of Indian education system. It does criticize the system but does not tie itself into knots by suggesting an alternative model. It however, exhorts one to dare to be different. It encourages people to be, as the famous 1980s song had put it, “just a man and his will to survive”. The protagonist Rancho, played by Amir Khan, is a non-conformist but not a Hippie-style rebel. He has his own convictions and defends his friends’ right to have theirs. He is courageous enough to question and the pedantic style of his teacher in the classroom of his engineering college and irreverent enough to accost the boss of the institution whose rebuke drives a hapless student to suicide. His uniqueness does not make him a misfit. Instead, his malleability endears him to all and helps him survive the sniggers of those who disapprove of his ways. His ability to imagine and improvise helps him perform tasks that win the hearts of his worst critics and his most bitter rivals. His infectious vivacity rubs on his close friends who gather the courage to follow their hearts instead of treading the beaten track. He succeeds in convincing his friends, and the viewers as well, that if you tell yourself “all is well”, you get the courage to face your problems head-on even if not the ability to solve them. In an era when we, as Oscar Wilde had said “know the price of everything and the value of nothing”, he reaffirms the supremacy of “excellence” over “success”.
There is something magical about Hirani. He weaves a tale of improbabilities with an aplomb that compels the viewer to suspend disbelief. Can it be possible for a rich brat’s gardener to go to an engineering college bearing his name and getting a degree with that fake identity? Is it really possible to escape the humiliation of ragging by playing a nasty trick upon seniors hell bent upon bullying the freshers? Can one survive, let alone come out with flying colours, in an institute for four years after saying and doing everything that is close to the bone of teachers? There are many such episodes which appear absurd only when one has finished watching and is equipped with the wisdom of hindsight. The absurdities escape the incredulity of the viewer while the movie is being watched. And this is its biggest strength. Hirani did it in “Munnabhai MBBS” which saw the protagonist infusing life, and hence compassion as well, into a medical college and hospital in a way that was too silly to be true. He has repeated the magic with even greater success. Full marks to Mr Amir Khan who has played a character half his age with the conviction that only he is capable of. Compared with Khan’s act, how incongruous Rajendra Kumar and Jeetendra were when they played college-going characters in their hey day. Efforts of Madhavan and Sharman Joshi too need to be acknowledged. They were not playing their age either. They have got into their roles without displaying the frustration that comes while playing second fiddle to a more celebrated co-star. Omi Vaidya is a really good find while Boman Irani once again demonstrates his finesse at playing ruthless eccentricity. Dialogues are brilliant for which Hirani shares the credit with Abhijat Joshi. The musical score may not be of the best quality but Swanand Kirkire truly deserves a pat on his back for so beautifully capturing the various moods of the film, especially “give me some sunshine” and “behti hawa sa thaa wo”. Those who have not yet watched it are missing something of real value. So hurry!