Allen Worwood reviews 3 Idiots and finds out that the box office success is a powerful indictment of the modern system of education in India
3 Idiots is not only a heartwarming comedy, but also provides a valuable insight into the pressures and rigours of the education system in India.
Widely acclaimed and officially the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time, 3 Idiots has gone on to win numerous accolades (multiple Filmfare and Star Screen Awards), and it has made more than Rs. 400 crore worldwide since its release.
Directed by Rajkumar Hirani and produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, 3 Idiots begins when two former IIT students are driving to meet an old friend from college. Throughout the journey, we see flashbacks of their time at school, as each of them were pushed by different necessities to study engineering at IIT, one of most renowned colleges in India. From the first day that they met, an almost indestructible bond formed between them, and together, Rancho (Aamir Kahn), Farhan (R. Madhavan) and Raju (Sharman Joshi) broke free from the shackles of the monotonous educational system, and each were finally able to venture upon the path of their true desires. This is an extremely emotional movie, as one is just as likely to burst into tears as to be filled with laughter. Watching the three friends bonding and becoming like brothers is a beacon of hope amongst the darkness that is the cruel reality for most students at IIT – fail the degree, and fail life itself. Such is the pressure placed upon these people that early on in the film, one of the students, Joy Lobo, commits suicide when he was refused an extension on his project by the Professor Viru Sahastrabudhe (Boman Irani), who is affectionately known as ‘Virus’ by everyone at IIT.
Professor Viru Sahastrabudhe effectively symbolises the establishment. Everything from his repeated speeches to his systematically repetitive lifestyle echoes that of a machine, much like the schooling process that the students are put through. His stance on education conflicts drastically with that of the three students, in particular Rancho, and this is the main source of their many clashes throughout the film, as Viru is always trying to break up the threesome, or get them expelled. Only towards the end of the film does Viru see the error of his ways, as his daughter finally tells him that his son committed suicide because Viru forced him to do engineering, when he wanted to become a writer. It also takes a colossal event to change Viru’s perspective on the trio, as Rancho and co. help Viru’s daughter to deliver a child using innovative engineering techniques in an albeit chaotically done, but poignant scene.
Aesthetically and musically this is a gorgeous movie, as some of the visuals are simply stunning, while the soundtrack correlates with the various scenes superbly.
It is easy to understand why this film has done so well in Bollywood. Although there are some scrappy scenes in places, overall this is an uplifting production, and 3 Idiots deserves all of its success.