3 Idiots

3 idiots
Cast: Aamir Khan, R Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Kareena Kapoor, Boman Irani, Omi, Jaaved Jafferi

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

Rating:***

If anyone else had made '3 Idiots', there would have been an immediate outpouring of hosannahs, because the ability to wrap an engaging story around an important message is a forgotten skill in most Hindi cinema. But this is from Rajkumar Hirani who brought back joy and sparkle to the movies. Both his 'Munnabhai' films are superb entertainers that you can watch any and all the time: I would, if I could, put both on a continuous loop, and swoop in for a taste whenever I felt like a dose of upbeat.

'3 Idiots' does not do as much for me. The emotional truth that shone through both the 'Munnabhai' movies doesn't come through strongly enough: the artifice caused by a forty-something playing a twenty-something colours the film. Are there no capable twenty year olds in B town?

It's based, very loosely, on Chetan Bhagat's smash-hit 'Five Point Someone', which is about three friends who bond for life over shared blood, sweat and tears, in the way only those who go through professional colleges brimming with brutal deans and hellish exams, can. The kind of pressure-cooker college where kids who can't handle the heat leap out of high windows, or hang themselves from fans in their hostel rooms.

Ranchodas Shyamaldas Chanchad aka Rancho (Aamir Khan), Raju Rastogi (Sharman Joshi) and Farhan Qureishi (R Madhavan) meet on a freshers' night when new arrivals are being introduced to the ways of an elite engineering college.

Undies are being yanked down when Rancho walks in, escapes to his room and devises a devilish way out of the humiliation about to be heaped upon him. From then on, Rancho becomes their lodestar, both as an official getter-into-trouble, as well as the guy who will get them out of it. And then one day, just like that, he's gone.

Rancho's old mates set off on a quest, accompanied by another batchmate (Omi), whose extreme competitiveness and slyness many will recognize from their time at tech institutes. This throwing of the switch, from a coming of age flick to a road movie, unsettles the rhythm, and leads to an overstretched half. This, or that, or both?

Somewhere along the way, almost like an after-thought, the ravishing Kareena Kapoor shows up, to execute a skilled-if-not-madly-novel song-and-dance number with Khan. And because she plays a doctor, she also gets to save lives. She's not a strong plot point, though, and you miss her effervescence when she's sent out to bide her time till her next scene.

Hirani has never been afraid of tears, abundantly on display in both his earlier tours. Here, every single character, including the stone-hearted dean Viru Sahastrabuddhe, or more aptly, Virus (Boman Irani, more cipher than character) is given a wet-eyed moment.

The result is a flood, literally, which leaves the second half awash. I happily cried along with Munna and Circuit; here, I caught myself waiting for the deluge to end. The laughter in some places is forced, as is the effort Khan puts into appearing half his age—in the widening of the eyes, the shuffling of the gait, the loose, wrinkly jeans.

Madhavan and Joshi come off better, especially the latter, who is absolutely first rate. But the one who really leaves a mark is the always-chasing-after-success Chatur, the southie nerd played by newcomer Omi.

The film is meant to be a trenchant attack on an educational system which creates robots, and ambitious parents who insist their child do something they do not want to, even if it means losing the child to despair and death. It makes the point, but not as magically as it could have, given Hirani's unique gift of building extraordinary moments out of the ordinary.

'3 Idiots' was good in parts, but it didn't blow me away.

(shubhra.gupta@expressindia.com)

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