Take a Drink: for expository music and/or full-blown musical numbers
Take a Drink: for application of learning/unconventional solutions
Take a Drink: for parental expectations
Take a Drink: for bathroom humor
Take a Drink: whenever a character does
Do a Shot: for Indian McLovin and Indian Gael Garcia Bernal
By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
I have to admit that my knowledge of Bollywood is criminally low (although I once watched 30 minutes of the completely insane Rowdy Rathore in a seedy Cochin airport hotel room and will finish it one of these days). However, the one Bollywood film I keep hearing the highest praise for (and is in the IMDB Top 250) is 3 Idiots.
This is a comedy in which two men, Farhan and Raju, find out the whereabouts of their unconventional, inventive University schoolmate Rancho (Aamir Khan), who they’ve lost touch with in the ten years since graduation. The film follows their journey, and flashes back to their college days, when Rancho turned the stodgy Imperial College of Engineering on its ear, and became a legend.
Aamir Khan is one of the biggest stars Bollywood has ever seen, and in this, my first exposure to him, I can see why. He’s got great comic timing, a quick wit which makes him a cinch to play a genius, and charm for days. That description in a lot of ways can apply to 3 Idiots itself, which manages to not quite overstay its welcome for its 171 minute runtime. It’s full of an infectious energy and good-natured sense of humor, and goofy flourishes like how it suddenly becomes a 50s social issues drama whenever they visit Raju’s poor family.
I’m a sucker for Satyajit Ray jokes.
What’s captured so many viewers’ hearts and minds about this film, though, are not these qualities, which are pleasant but hardly groundbreaking, but the message underlying them. The concept of overbearing Indian parents constantly pushing their children for professional success and status has become such a cliche that The Big Bang Theory uses it, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some truth behind it. 3 Idiots makes a case for the opposite- for following your dreams, against an obsession with material wealth and status symbols… you know, practically all of the lessons shoehorned into the latest Direct to DVD Disney kiddie flick.
Isn’t that, like, the whole third act of Planes?
In an India, though, still struggling with the legacy of caste systems and colonialism, this film must have felt like an irreverent breath of fresh air to many and, well, it’s hard to argue with any of those points.
As you can tell, this isn’t particularly deep stuff, and you can see the narrative puppet strings whenever they do address a darker topic like suicide. This is melodrama, not drama. Likewise, the comic bits aren’t always as clever as they think they are. I’m pretty sure the astronaut pen vs. pencil joke is older than space travel itself.
I don’t know what space is, but I’ve got a joke for you!
All of the standard Bollywood attractions/warnings apply. Yes, the movie’s super-long, yes, there are several musical numbers, and yes, there are plenty of slapstick and cornball gags that don’t land. Also, as is perhaps inevitable for a film trying to pack so much in, the tonal shifts (like, say, a jaunty musical number ending with the discover of a suicide) can be jarring.
3 Idiots is broad, simplistic, and shamelessly manipulative, but it’s still quite a bit of fun, and has its heart in the right place. A Top 250 film of all time? Ummm… not so much.