OK, 3 Idiots is perhaps still one of the best Hindi pictures of the year so far and in that sense it does fulfil certain expectations but it also had its task made so much easier by the sheer mediocrity we’ve had this year. I’m not saying it definitely is the year’s best yet as technically three more releases are due on New Year Eve and one has to be fair to them. But in terms of matching up to Hirani’s own high standards and the brilliant Munna Bhai films, it has to be said 3 Idiots does come in a distant third, being very obvious and desperate in trying to be that big crowd pleaser.
Loosely taking off from Chetan Bhagat’s novel Five Point Someone, 3 Idiots looks at two friends, Farhan and Raju (R Madhavan and Sharman Joshi) who embark on a quest for a lost buddy, Rancho. On this journey, they encounter a long forgotten bet, a wedding they must crash, and a funeral that goes impossibly out of control. As they make their way through the perilous landscape, another journey begins: their inner journey through memory lane and the story of their friend- the irrepressible free-thinker Rancho (Aamir Khan), who in his unique way, touched and changed their lives. It’s a story of their hostel days that swings between Rancho’s romance with the spirited Pia (Kareena Kapoor), and his clash with oppressive mentor, Viru Sahastrabudhhe or Virus (Boman Irani), her father. And then one day, suddenly, Rancho vanishes…
What disappoints you the most in the film is the fleshing out of the screenplay and especially the way Aamir’s character is written. There is little more to Rancho than to episodically solve every problem that comes his way in his quirky off beat manner. In that sense he is flat and unidimensional, the perfect angel descended from heaven. The argument of doing your own thing and not following the bookish and marks orientated trend our education system follows is identifiable but it is drilled ever so often that it gets into preachy territory. We understand what Aamir’s point is right from his first scene with the teacher so the film becomes a series of repetitions going on about the same thing. The shifting of mood often within scenes from comic to poignant is forced rather than flow naturally with the effort to be bittersweet showing as the film gets uncomfortably into heavy melodrama territory in some of its more emotional scenes.
In fact, some of the scenes that don’t work are outright no-nos. Rancho telling Virus off after Joy’s suicide that it was murder, for one. The flashback sequences of Sharman’s poverty stricken family linking it to melodramatic Hindi cinema of yesteryear is in extremely bad taste and makes fun of him, his poor family and his problems, while the driving of the scooter into the hospital, the sequence of trying to revive Sharman in the hospital and Mona Singh’s delivery sequences (wonder what the doctors would think of it) just leave you speechless. And what was that track of Javed Jaffrey??? The other problem with the film is the typical way Indian cinema (mis)uses flashbacks. The film is supposed to be Madhavan’s POV but the minute we get into flashback mode, the film shifts to neutral territory and so we have many scenes of Aamir, sequences of Sharman and even Pia and her father that Madhavan would never have been privy to. Rancho should just have been the catalyst for Farhan and Raju to grow but shifting focus to him since Aamir is the lead, ends up diluting the film, especially since he is so one dimensional. Also, considering that Rancho (and the film) try to tell you that follow your heart and be happy – money is not everything, it kind of defeats the purpose that by the end Rancho is conveniently a huge success and a multi-millionaire as well.
Still, the film is crafted well enough and you do feel at least that a proper filmmaker is at its helm in terms of its filming and some moments in the film do work wonderfully well. There is a certain likeable chemistry the 3 lead actors share while the dialogue does sparkle at a lot of places. Chatur’s Teacher’s Day speech is a hoot and is easily the funniest scene of the film even if stretched a mite too far. There are some scenes and moments connecting one with one’s hostel life that have you smiling even if at times the jokes and pranks appear too juvenile. The scene of the drunken Rancho going to Pia’s house and romancing her with her under the blanket is cute with a nice pay off at the end. There is a layering to some of the frames that most films lack such as the burqa clad women being photographed in the background in Simla, a great touch.
To his credit, Aamir does manage to manifest his singly layered role with sufficient charm and energy to make his character likeable enough but ultimately he is simply too good to be true. The script does defeat him in places and he is not entirely able to rise above it every time, unlike in the film, where he unbelievably solves each and every problem that comes his way like some sort of superman. Madhavan and Sharman have their nice moments but get handicapped with the film demanding that everyone including them be in awe of Aamir’s character and little more. And of course, the three do look too old for their college days. Kareena is perhaps the best she’s been since Jab We Met but to be honest she doesn’t have much to play with to go wrong in any case. Omi does wonderfully well as the nerd Chatur – as mentioned, his teacher’s day speech is a riot while Mona Singh is adequate enough! However Boman Irani is unable to flesh out his character and often ends up being a caricature of the worst sort.
The technicalities like the camerawork, sound design, production design are in place and go by and large with the film. Still, you wish it could have musically a little stronger. All Izz Well feels and looks much better once seen on screen and does establish some aspects of hostel life through the course of the song but Zoobie Doobie’s not-so-innovative picturisation brings the narrative to a grinding halt and does nothing for the film. The length tells a bit heavily on the film particularly in sections of the second half, which get clunky.
Overall, all izz somewhat well but not absolutely so as one hoped for. In the final analysis, 3 Idiots is a reasonably good but not great film. As an on-the-surface entertainer it works well enough but scratch the surface and it lacks the depth and content of Hirani’s earlier films. And though still better than practically all the films one has seen this year, one expected much more from Rajkumar Hirani.
Hindi, Comedy, Drama, Color