The first question that came to my mind as I finished watching 3 Idiots was “So, who are the other two?” The first, obviously, being me. For I had continued to sit through several hours of a most trite, insipid and boooooring flim even after the first 20 minutes, by which it was crystal clear what the movie was going to be like. But then, as they say, hope lies deep in the human heart, and after everything is lost, there is still hope. So I continued to watch, hoping that the film will improve, something interesting will happen, that obnoxious things will stop happening, but like many other hopefuls, I found I had waited in vain.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those high brows who turn up their noses at Bollywood. Far from it, I love my bollywood – masala bollywood, in fact, and the more the masala, the better. I don’t demand that the films be realistic. I enjoy the unbelievable happening. I don’t wonder why one moment the sun is shining and the sky clear, and yet, it can suddenly start to pour over the heroine. I accept, indeed, expect, the hero to be an all-rounder who can do anything and everything. I love the song and dance, action, mar-dhad, and heroes and heroines being saved by loyal dogs, pigeons or elephants. I thrive on unbelievable coincidences. I have greatly enjoyed bollywood fares of last many decades from the days of Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt and Amitabh to the more recent times when films are known more by their abbreviations (QSQT, DDLJ etc.) than their full names.
When I was in school, I used to maintain a “List of 10” – ten best books I have read, ten best songs I have heard and of course, ten best films I have seen. I stopped updating these lists long back, but 3 Idiots has inspired me to start a new list – Ten Worst Films I Have Ever Seen (Barring None). And I have little hesitation in saying that 3 Idiots has made it straight to the top of that list. I can’t think of any that even comes close.
So we have this can-do-nothing-wrong, brilliant engineering student, who is already creating all kinds of devices from scrap, is a wonderful human being, a friend who goes out of the way – a friend-in-need if there ever was one, (and whose friends, in a perfectly complementary relationship, seem to be always friends in need – of help), and of course, in the glorious Hindi film tradition, maintains the highest level of personal sacrifice. All this is fine, but so boring!
What I could not figure out, however, is the great purity and innocence of our hero who obviously can do fair bit of calculations, and drawings to be able to make all these things he constructs, but still feels that kiss karne pe naak beech me aata hai… (The nose comes in the way when one tries to kiss). Now, I admit that if someone from our times on the campus claimed this belief, it may have been plausible, for we did not have TV and films that showed kisses all the time, leaving little for imagination (or the internet, of course, which plays such a huge role in 3 Idiots). It is interesting that the engineering campus hostel of 3 Idiots has almost all the things our campus hostels from 25 years ago had, but it does not seem to have any porn! For at least that would show our hero what happens when one tries to kiss. But of course, the purity and innocence of the Hindi film hero (and heroine) has been maintained.
Unfortunately, the price paid for such an all-round, pure and innocent hero has been extreme ennui and boredom.
Just last week, one esteemed newspaper columnist had offered legal advice to Chetan Bhagat, urging him to sue the makers of the film for refusing to give him due credit as the original story writer. IMHO, if I was Chetan Bhagat, I would jump with joy, secretly thank my stars, and go quietly to the temple to offer some coconut to the Gods (or whatever equivalent he does) in appreciation of this great piece of good luck. Indeed I would say that instead of suing the filmmakers, Chetan Bhagat should offer them money for hiding his connection with the terrible terrible film, instead of grieving that he has not been given any credit.
In fact, if any one should be peeved and cheated, it should be the internet, for most of the jokes in the film have been circulating on the internet years before the film was conceived, and I am sure must have landed several times in all of our inboxes in the last years. Possibly the only exception must be the chamatkar one – which, rather than being funny, just leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
The only saving grace is the “Aaall iz Well” slogan, and song, but alas, that cannot be said of the film.