Directed by: Rajkumar Hirani
Starring: Aamir Khan, Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Kareena Kapoor and Boman Irani
To translate a novel from page to screen is no easy task. Even the most talented directors have been defeated in achieving this (see Lovely Bones and The Time Traveller’s Wife for two recent examples). But when the the film takes a life of its own and manages to become a separate entity, you know that you are watching a quality film that will become an instant classic and one you will want to see again and again. This is how I felt after catching 3 Idiots at a packed preview screening, with an unruly audience that were tamed into submission by the magic of the film.
3 Idiots is the story of three friends – Rancho (Khan), Farhan (Madhavan) and Raju (Joshi) who study together at college. The story picks up in the future with Farhan and Raju looking for Rancho, who has been AWOL since graduation. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn about their time in college and why the pair are eager to be reunited with Rancho.
3 Idiots is a very entertaining film which fully engages all factions of the audience and brings them together in such a quietly confident manner, it is a joy to watch. Rajkumar Hirani managed a similar feat with the Munnabhai films, in a story which saw someone on the fringe of society come into the world of academia and shake things up with a no nonsense approach. In fact, 3 Idiots shares many similarities with the Munnabhai films (though this is not a bad thing) – note the witty dialogues, tradition versus modernity, eccentric characters, the way the audience root for the characters and the way the film gives the audiences cues as to what is about to happen so that we are with the characters as they go through different scenarios in the film. (Also note the obsession Hirani has for “ragging” which always seems to involve men in underwear – what is that about??)
Rajkumar Hirani has been given an accolade of being a modern day Hrishikesh Mukerjee and with 3 Idiots, one can see this is fully justifed. Hirani’s has a wicked sense of humour that is cheeky and clever at the same time and this come across very well in the film. The film has many layers to it and whilst there is a serious commentary on the education system in India that appears to trains students how to pass exams rather than become well educated individuals and puts enormous pressure on everyone (which is seen in the distressing suicide scene at the end of Aal Izz Well), 3 Idiots also gives us some hilarious moments that will make your sides ache with laughter. Like Mukerjee, Hirani has that ability to keep a tight rein on the narrative and guide us through moments of humour and sadness with great conviction.
Technically, the film is very good too, with unfussy cinematography, set design and some wonderful props (something that is very easy to take for granted) including the aerial camera and the suction vaccum. Credit must also be given to the flood sequence and the way the film neatly weaves complex technical themes into the narrative – I think I even learnt something! I also loved the styling in the film with the guys coming out trumps. I loved Rancho’s look of plain T-shirts, loose jeans and Converse (which reminded me of my own university days!), then Farhan with the checks and slightly formal look and then my favourite look (which i shall be rocking in Summer 2010) is Raju’s look of long plain kurtas with jeans and gladiator sandals – a very simple classic look but one that looks wonderful on screen. I also loved Kareena’s tomboy look of jeans, plain tee and scarf and then seeing her look amazing in the pink lengha in the engagement scene, sensuous in the orange sari/bikini choli in Zoobi Doobi and then the magnificent wedding joda which I think is the best she has looked in all her films this year. Eagle eyed viewers will also spot Kareena sporting the black Gucci bag she had in Main Aurr Mrs Khanna at one point – Kareena likes Gucci!
Performance wise, the coupling of Aamir Khan and Hirani is a match made in heaven. Aamir exudes so much charisma and energy it is impossible to resist being drawn into his performance – we totally understand why Farhan and Raju are searching for him. Aamir looks fantastic and shines throughout all the film but not only does he do well as individual but also as an ensemble – I liked the fact that everyone got the opportunity to perform and that Aamir can support his fellow cast members as well as hold his own. Both Madhavan and Joshi are very good in their roles, each giving competent and sensitive performances and making the characters belivable and likeable. Boman Irani is superb as Virus, the demonic professor who is absorbed in the world of academia and forgets about the real world. Despite being quite evil, Irani gives Virus a very human quality so that we sympathise with him and even laugh with him at times. I also felt the character who played Omi, the nerd who studies obssessively was very good, and an excellent foil to the others, playing his role with such honesty and straightforwardness, he sometimes steals the show. Like all Hirani films, 3 Idiots is very male dominated and as a consequence, Kareena gets a limited scope to perform but when she does, she is brilliant, matching Aamir’s energy bu at the same time, being quite restrained and subtle which just shows her continuing growth as an actress.
Out of all the films I have seen this year, 3 Idiots is amongst the best of the year and indeed, is an instant classic. It is very hard to dislike this film and even the most hardened cynic would have a hard time not enjoying themselves whilst watching it. Interestingly, Aamir started the decade with films like Lagaan and Dil Chahta Hai, both of which were amazing films which still impact upon Bollywood today. Ending the decade with 3 Idiots just shows how many leagues ahead of everyone else Aamir Khan is and how he really is a world-class superstar. This film is worth the hype and definitely worth a watch. Unmissable.