Thursday, June 9, 2016

3 Idiots [2009]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (4+ Stars)

IMDb listing listing** (T. Adarsh) review** review**

Hindustan Times (M. Shekhar) review**
Times of India (G. Malani) review** (K. Gibson) review
The Hollywood Reporter (L. Tsering) review
The Village Voice (D. Chute) review
Variety (D. Elley) review

3 Idiots [2009] [IMDb] [FiBt] (directed and story/screenplay cowritten by Rajkumar Hirani [IMDb] [FiBt] along with Abhijat Joshi [IMDb], produced / screenplay assistance by Vidhu Vinod Chopra [IMDb] [FiBt] based on the novel Five Point Someone: What not to do at IIT (2004) [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Chetan Bhagat [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn]) a WILDLY POPULAR (in India and clearly / especially among India's student population), critically acclaimed (above), multiple award winning (including three 2010 FilmFare awards, India's closest equivalent to the Oscars, for "Best Film," "Best Actor in a Leading Role" and "Best Director") "COMING OF AGE" DRAMEDY serves as the 6th stop of my 2016 Indian Film Tour.

Recommended by an Indian Reader of my blog _as soon as_ I began my "film tour" and certainly with a compelling title ;-), having seen the film now, I would suggest that THIS FILM SHOULD BE REQUIRED VIEWING FOR ANY AMERICAN / WESTERNER WITH AN INDIAN FRIEND OR TWO ;-)  The film is available in the U.S. on DVD / for Streaming via various services for a reasonable price.

The film tells the story of three engineering students -- Farhan Quereshi (played by Madhavan [IMDb] [FiBt]), Raju Rastogi (played by Sharman Joshi [IMDb] [FiBt]) and Rancho Shamaldas Chanchad (played by Aamir Khan  [IMDb] [FiBt]) -- who had studied at a fictionalized IIT (called here the Imperial College of Engineering or ICE ;-).  Actually, the film begins 10 years later, after all three had long passed through its halls, on an "agreed-upon date" (sort of... ;-) when they and another student Chatur Ramaningam (played by Omi Vaidya [IMDb] [FiBt]) were to meet and compare how they "actually did in life"  But as they meet on that day "10 years later" ... the rest of the story is told in extended flash-backs recalling their lives as students at the venerable I.C.E. ...

Farhan was from a middle class family, studying engineering only because his dad absolutely insisted on it.  He would have much preferred being a wildlife photographer (something _totally_ "impractical").

Raju came from _a really poor family_ introduced to us Viewers by Farhan's voice-over as having been "lifted straight out of a 1950s-era Indian tragedy" and thus is _always portrayed_ onscreen with the film switching from color to high contrast black and white for the duration of their presence in the scene ;-).   His dad, a former postal-worker, is always shown in an all-but-catatonic state lying in bed _awaiting death_ from one or another (often new) unspecified illness.  His mother would then complain about the high cost of absolutely everything, even the most basic of commodities, to whoever would listen to her (including initially to Raju's friends who honestly had not spent much time previously thinking about the just price for such things as butter or shoelaces...)  And every home visit by Raju would end with his mother reminding him that the family's fortune _absolutely depended_ on his finishing his engineering degree so that his older sister, ever shown weeping quietly in a corner, could _finally_ have a dowry and thus be able to be married(off) ;-).  No pressure at all ;-)

'Rancho' seemed to be a prodigy of sorts from the countryside who learned his science / engineering skills by simply taking apart and tinkering with absolutely everything.

Finally Chatur was a Ugandan-born (of Indian immigrants) student, whose Hindi thus was not necessarily as good as the others' but who made up for it through sheer rote effort / determination - reading about and memorizing just about everything that needed to be known about any subject at hand.  

A few days after the three arrived to begin their freshman year at the ICE, they along with their classmates were assembled by the head of the school, a Professor Viru (nicknamed "Virus") Shahastrabuddhe (played by Boman Irani [IMDb] [FiBt]).  Holding a stuffed koel bird (an type of cuckoo bird) in his hands as a prop, the Profesor recounted to his incoming students the story of this type of bird:  It turns out that the koel bird would put its eggs into other birds' nests, these eggs would hatch first and then the koel hatchlings would push all the other eggs out of the nest, breaking them, and thus fully taking their place.  The point?   Pointing to a large / imposing pile of cardboard boxes behind him _filled_ with completed applications to the engineering school, he reminded them: "Each year this school gets 400,000 applications and we only accept 200 students.  YOU ARE STANDING ON A LOT OF BROKEN EGGS."  And over the subsequent years, he _repeatedly_ drilled the students with similar stories: "In life you have to run fast or else you're going to be trampled,"  "Who was the first man to walk on the moon?  Neil Armstrong, of course.  Who was the second?  (Buzz Aldrin, but...) no one cares.  In life, you must be first or it does not matter."

So one gets the sense that the fictionalized "ICE" was A REAL PRESSURE COOKER and almost like a cross between Marvel Comics' X-men-like School for TRULY EXCEPTIONAL (200 out of 400,000...) STUDENTS and "Trump University" where the ONLY POSSIBLE THING THAT MATTERED was BEING #1 AT THE END.  

But then what were the "superpowers" of the students lucky enough to have made it to this _truly_ elite school:

Fernan was there only because his dad really, really wanted him be there (his superpower being exceptional FOCUS / OBEDIENCE to be able to HEROICALLY REDIRECT his fundamental passion / talents (for "photographing wildlife" ;-) into _studying engineering_.

Raju's "superpower" was EXCEPTIONAL LOYALTY and RESPONSE TO DUTY TO FAMILY regardless of what he might have wanted (did he even know?  Did anyone, even he himself, even ask?).

Rancho's "superpower" was perhaps the most fitting to that actually needed to succeed in an Engineering school, an EXCEPTIONAL INTEREST IN UNDERSTANDING HOW THINGS WORK and HOW TO MAKE THEM WORK BETTER ... an EXCEPTIONAL TINKERER ;-).  

And Chatur's "superpower" was to lookup, read and MEMORIZE EVERYTHING KNOWN about any given subject, hence beome a _walking encyclopedia_ of  (already...) "received knowledge."  He also proved to be remarkably adept at "internal shapeshifting" ... BECOMING ANYTHING REQUIRED by "the Boss" AT HAND.  Hence, he proved to be a remarkably good "test taker" in school, and quintessential "Yes Man" afterwards.  But as for independent thought ...?  Well?

So then out of this brew of exceptional "survivors" and occasional _truly adept_ students came the central drama of the story as they all struggled with the questions: What's actually success?  What actually matters?

Is it being #1 in the class, landing a good job, marrying a "good spouse" (what actually makes for "a good spouse" ... Prof. Virus' daughter Pia (played by Kareena Kapoor [IMDb] [FiBt]) struggled concurrently with that question and its attendant pressures), or simply FINDING A WAY TO BE HAPPY ...?

This becomes A LOVELY STORY "OF NERDS, BY NERDS and FOR NERDS" (and I _do_ count myself as one of them ... as I _too_ was an (chemical) engineering student as well, before I entered into the Seminary ;-).

It's a MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE asking young people: "What difference does it make if you even become #1 but ARE NOT HAPPY?" (cf. in the Christian tradition: Matt 16,26)


So this becomes a _brilliant story / film_ FOR ALL YOUNGER PEOPLE trying to discern their direction in life and then for ANYONE who's ever had an Indian friend of T.A. in school.  Chances are that the drama that plays out in this film was part of their lives as well.

Excellent, simply excellent film / story!

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