Tuesday, January 12, 2010

3 Idiots Review

The answer, I hear, Hirani gave a 44 year old Aamir when asked why he was being cast as a 18 something was that Hirani could not imagine someone else. (Much like the directors in the 80s couldn't imagine anyone else other than a Jeetendra or a Rajesh Khanna to play a college heartthrob.)

Well, Hirani. That is why we have a process called casting. And a thing called thinking afresh – something your movie touches in words but not deeds.

3 Idiots is not about 3 idiots, it’s about The Idiot. Not the Dostoveosky one, not the Bhagat one, but Aamir Khan. The King has been toppled. Aamir is the new crowned king of Bollywood without a doubt. Nothing but him can explain the BO numbers he’s generated with Ghajini and the undermarketed Taare Zameen Par (Mangal Pandey doesn't count as the implosive effect of AmishaHamPatel can offset fifty explosive Khans); nothing can explain why even after a mega-successful run Hirani felt insecure enough to rely on this real ikka of Bollywood.

Aamir is an excellent actor. He is the only big Khan who doesn’t ham and hence he is an excellent actor. I like Aamir. He knows he is not as good as people make him out to be and he tries hard – and honesty of intent is a worthy attribute in a hollow industry like BW.

Coming to the Idiot. The film takes off from where all movies like these have taken from since DCH. Only this time instead of another Khan to steal the idiot’s limelight, the two Chunnu-Munnus from RDB are added. There might have been the Tunnu but he was rolled into the character of Munnu himself, the Muslim-un’-like-us Madhavan. That way another painful subplot is avoided when all that the character has to do is weave his life around the leelaayein of Rancho and drop his mouth to his chest in awe, grin and shake his head at another of his antic-cum–miracles and weep and give him butt salutes now and then (a ceremony only Kareena is exempted from). Sharman Joshi tries bravely to eke out something for himself but Madhavan, clearly on the fag end of his hero career in BW, doesn't even try. They don’t even get a token side-heroine to romance. What happens to the Isha Koppikars and Amrita Raos when you need them?

To complete Prabhu Khan’s dasavtaram, there’s even a sequence in a song reminiscent of DCH’s Saif and Sonali’s song (btw, the music is pretty sad in the Idiot), where Aamir does a news anchor, chef, Hanuman, astrologer on the boob tube in front of another boob, Kareena. And no – it was not an ad by Coca Cola. And he becomes the only junior in the history of Indian ragging to get away with electrocuting a senior in the gonads. (By the way, the senior is played by a noted actor from Bangalore theater scene – Rajeev Ravindranathan. How pitifully these actors get wasted by BWood!)

And the new Jadoo ki Jhappi, from previous instalments, is All IZZ Well – stated with more emphatic thumps atop bus roofs by the real Prabhu Deva a decade and half ago as Take it easy policy.

Oh, don’t mistake me. The movie is entertaining. And I disagree with many when I say that the second half is better than the first. The subplot of Javed Jaffrey is deftly handled to explain Rancho’s decade long absence and still get something out of it. The movie is neatly, if unimaginatively, directed and the script is crisp despite the loopholes. What really make the movie work are Irani and Chatur. Aamir, never a spontaneous actor, is so busy trying to decide on the next cutesy mannerism to impersonate a 20 year old – blinking, craning his neck forward, scratching his head, look over that spot over the fulminating father's shoulder, sticking his hands deep in his pocket, wide-eyed – that he looks like he’s dividing pi with e in his head.

A pause here to establish my own credentials on why I might be able to connect to the lives portrayed.

  1. The protagonists as Madhavan mentions were born around the year 1978. At least, he was. Ahem.
  2. The movie is supposed to be life in the campus of an engineering institute I went to. Though not the Delhi one.
  3. The movie is shot in my other campus – the MBA one.

Yes, my emotions might have colored my judgement had I found an inkling of my own life in the life described in the movies. But the kind director rarely let that awkward situation arise and beside Boman, nothing else in the movie – except for its moments like Sharmaan’s “per plate cost” question, two typical engineering students touching themselves under the vest as they browse Hindi cheapies on exam eve, students again praying to every possible god and animal on the eve of the results – touched me as strongly resembling my life in engineering and I quickly adapted myself to enjoy just some other fantasy ride. Which I did.

Where I did have a problem was when the film drawls its messages at me.

In what I would suppose it supposed a key scene, Aamir tells the professor about how ‘Yehaan par koi naye ideas ki baat hi nahi karta… baat karte hain to sirf marks ki…’

Oh yeah? And what new ideas have you offered to press that point? Recycling done to death urban legends, jokes and clichés.

Aamir asks the prof boasting about a pen built my Americans for space, why they could not just use pencils. Actually, the done-to-death urban legend is about Americans spending billions in research for the elusive pen while the Russians took pencils aboard.

How is a funeral filmed? A Christian cemetery, rains, black umbrellas.(For this only the dead character was a Lobo; beside the point that he died waiting for his convocation while the rest of his batchmates were waiting for the results of their first semester.)

Sharman, when told that nothing is impossible, presses the paste out of a tube and asks Maddy to try and put it back.

And having a 44 year old portray a teen never had anything to do with the BO marks scored right?

Yes. The movie truly stumbles where it tries to get serious. Suicides are thrown in like rapes in a Ranjeet movie. There is that obligatory suicide due to pressure that all half baked college movies and books resort to as a dramatic device to suddenly turn the mood from flippant to serious. When a nanha idiot is asked to make a choice between getting rusticated or turn a witness, he gets a nayaa idea and jumps out of the window. (‘But not a snitch!’ – as Pacino would have thundered here.) The prof’s own son had committed one, his bawling daughter tells him – like we did not see that coming since his introductory passage. Curiously, there is only one man behind all these suicides – Boman Irani who remains impervious to his Axe effect, even ignorant. When he breaks down, it’s only when the hero saves the day for his daughter - much like in his previous avatars in the Munna Bhai series. New ideas indeed.

Boman Irani’s character is a caricature – and credit to the man to bring it out in living flesh and blood. He’s the only totally credible piece to the movie and I could very well picture him stumbling into a class in Kanpur. The finest performance. I have studied for four years from professors like him and I can attest that 9 out of 10 of them would go behind the whiteboard and push it rather than pull it from the front. It is details like these that make Boman’s genius all the more special. Unlike the movie, he alone tries to be plausible not to the general but the people whose lives they portray.

Other than him, the movie remains mostly indifferent to what life in an engineering college in North India ten years ago might have been. Mobiles ring galore, people sport hairdos and fashion of the last few years, the GPA system is discarded in favour of a mysterious department-independent ranking system, a college of considerable stature is run autocratically by a single professor who cuts into classes at will, and a climax is resolved via a laptop to laptop live streaming delivery. And Kareena steps into a male engineering hostel in the dead of the night and steps out alive.

And there lies the movie’s biggest fault. Its lack of empathy – to a time, a context, a class. A reality away from colleges where the DCH cast hangs around. Times when most Indians still did not have the choice of doing whatever they wanted to do with their lives (and still don’t). The film shows no understanding of the deeper constitutions of its subjects: an engineering student, genius, a topper, a professor, a system. It’s no surprise therefore that the film’s second half does better than its first because now the protagonists are driving a SUV in picturesque valley, much like the DCH gang en route to Goa, and have brushed off the dust and lint of their humble bothersome and alien contexts from their classless metrosexual suits.

Other than that, the Idiot works just fine. (I would not have labored over its faults if it had not tried to preach.)

Tho’ I have never rested easy since I saw how suddenly my past from ten years back can land up at the door in a helmet – and a red wedding-sari.


Alam said...

nice take gullu

as i said .. these buggers are selling our stories (in shoddy packing) ...the even had the balls to shoot it in our hostels ... and aren't giving us any royalties.. not fair

the movie was entertaining and i might watch it again.

Makybe Diva said...

Nice review ,

I liked the movie .Didn't annoy me with its jokes infact they were good.

the character which draw my attention was omi vaidya nicely played by chatur ramalingum (you come across so many like them ... good actor )

somebody told me 'The Imperial College of Engineering' is old name for IIT is it true?

I read 5 point someone on my flight on way back to aus. somebody handed me the book . movie was very similar even the ques like define machine ? and why dont they carry pencil to space..

Makybe Diva said...

Nice review ,

I liked the movie .Didn't annoy me with its jokes infact they were good.

the character which draw my attention was omi vaidya nicely played by chatur ramalingum (you come across so many like them ... good actor )

somebody told me 'The Imperial College of Engineering' is old name for IIT is it true?

I read 5 point someone on my flight on way back to aus. somebody handed me the book . movie was very similar even the ques like define machine ? and why dont they carry pencil to space..

whatever said...

You might wanna read:

whatever said...

By the way, I've been following your blog for some time now and have to say, you write beautifully....a delight to read you.

gayatri said...

Delightful. After reading ur blog, must say, I must say I am impressioned enough to change my opinion on the movie.

Monsieur K said...

fantastic review! :)

Bland Spice said...

@Ahsan: I don’t think so. For one, in line with Nehru’s vision of Temples of Modern India, the emphasis was always on technology more than engineering, though it is mere pedantry.

@Whatever: Thanks. I respect Sagarika to go against the tide here because it is much tougher in the wink-wink-nod-nod arrangement of top journalists and film makers. Her points are very valid. But the film does show Aamir studying beyond his stipulated classes, only the point is made so passingly and one among so many, that it gets lost.

Nothing Spectacular said...

I very much liked the movie, warts and all...

Nothing Spectacular said...

...especially the cinematography of Ladakh! Awesome!! And Aamir actually looks like a Ladakhi.

pankajunk said...

brilliantly crude, or crudely brilliant, as usual. i havent seen the movie yet, but from all accounts, it seems like a fun watch. it is amazing how aamir keeps delivering one mega hit after another.

aparna said...

loovely review and very pedagologically done criticism...might not agree with you on some accounts...but yr writing is truly captivating...waiting 4 yr book..