Monday, January 04, 2010

All Izz Well?

No prizes for guessing what this is about. Nothing but the talk of the town (for reasons good, bad and ugly!) - Three Idiots!

Here's a movie which hit theatres on a Christmas day, and all hell broke loose! It was amazing to see the kind of rave reviews it got within a day of its release. People updating their status on Facebook and Orkut; tweets galore on how great and a 'must-watch' the movie is. 'Word of mouth' endorsement never had it this good. And with all the hype, rises expectations. So did mine. And that's where it fails.

I am not saying that 3 Idiots is bad; but it's 'not bad'. And as Raja Sen of rightly said about the movie, "when did 'not bad' become good"? I think it had to do with the low expectations from Bollywood movies. And so, it's not a case of the movie being great; people didn't have 'great expectations' to start with.

Now, to briefly put what is good about the movie. The movie does have its moments: the "balatkar - chamatkar" fiasco, ragging methods (which is known to many people, by the way), the Joy Lobo and his chopper incident (followed by his suicide), the 50s 'black and white' melodrama of Raju Rastogi's family and so on.

But, the problem with the movie is that it tries to marry madness to matter.
It tries not to be didactic about the Indian education system, which converts students into 'memorizing machines' and pressurizes students to learn by rote. To an extent the movie succeeds; but in parts. For instance, when Joy Lobo quits on life; or when Rancho teaches 'Virus' how to teach through inventing words such as 'Prerajulization' and 'Farhanitrate'. The movie caricatures the typical student through Chatur, who's an excellent example of conventional learning, where matter goes through his head, but not through his brains. His balatkar speech was just a hyperbole to drive home the fact. The makers also stick to the tried-and-tested formula of having a mantra (much like Jadoo ki Jhappi) in this film too: All Izz Well, which is a rage already.

At the same time, the movie strays to become a breezy entertainer, and thus a lot of comic elements and Bollywood-esque melodrama is thrown in for good measure!

Take for instance the caricature that 'Virus' is. It is quite alright to make him a typical khadoos principal. But the 7.5-minute power nap, the shaving that happens in between and his mannerisms are too much of an exagerration. Deforming that character to such unwarranted proportions made him a joke, more than anything.

The movie heavily relies on the email forwards or mobile jokes (case in point: the astronaut pen and the mix up of answer scripts). So much so that it left those who know them bored. It was even more unbelievable to see that some impostor could go through college masquerading as someone else, only to be conveniently dislodged once the degree certificate is attained! Another scene which is quite astonishing is how Raju is revived from his coma - by promising him to marry his sister off to Farhan for FREE! Not to forget the melodrama in the scene where Farhan appeals to his dad; and also Raju's job interview. It's amazing to realize that hamming is still a part and parcel of Hindi movies.

And the one that takes the cake is the delivery of the child by a Vacuum Cleaner (version 2.0)! The makers of the movie like to call that scene "the most emotional moment of the film". Sure, it did take my breath away. Not because of the delivery, but because it left me gasping in disbelief! And what's more; the child kicks back to life when they chant the mantra: "All Izz Well"! I had thought such fine aspects of movie-making was done and over with. But, well... the Hindi movies never fail to surprise me.

In short, the movie is a glimpse of not what it is, but what it could be. There was a lot of potential in developing an honest film - just as the Munnabhai series. But, the Bollywood masala was a tad too much and it spoiled the dish!

Going beyond the movie

The movie tried to send a message, and it has been totally lost in transit. The movie urges its viewers to have a re-look at the education system and how learning takes place. The fact is, all who I know came back from the movie saying that it was 'fun', a 'cool concept', 'must-watch' and so on. It remains just that - an entertainer.

Blaming the system alone is not fair. After a point of time, students are happily using the pretext of the system and justifying why they are not applying themselves while studying. I, for instance, can see that happening even in my own B-school. At post-graduation level, no one essentially tests your 'by-hearting' skills. We get to do case studies, situational analysis, learn frameworks and so on. But ultimately, my experience tells me that marks is all what matters to people, at large. I have seen people haggling for a mark or half, cheating, fighting, fretting and so on. People are quick to say it was 'out of syllabus' or 'it was not taught to us'. And it never ceases to amaze me how people can't shake off that mentality; even at the post-graduation level. Even when we are all educated and mature enough to know that the grades on your sheet is no indicator of your success in life: be it placements, professional or personal life.

Until the change happens from both the sides, learning will happen as it has happened always. Effort has to be be put in both by the system and the students that are a part of it. And using the education system as an excuse for not applying one's mind and REALLY trying to learn is just hogwash.

It reminds me of a classic definition which seems to suit this thought.

Lecture [lek-cher] noun, verb, -tured, -turing: An art of transmitting information from the notes of the lecturer to the notes of the student, without passing through the minds of either.

Until then, we can fool ourselves, like Aamir says, by keeping a hand on our hearts and saying:
"All Izz Well !!!"

Thought for the day: "Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten." - B. F. Skinner


  1. the final paragraph is really impressive. both sides should undergo a change to make a difference rather than just the educational system ,brilliant point.
    now i totally agree with u on that remark on excessive bollywood masala.
    The delivery scene was so exaggerated that i had to fast forward it ... it was more like " yeh cinema hai ya circus "

  2. Wow! This is your best write-up in the non-fiction category so far! Of course there is nothing to beat the forbidden fruit. I agree with most of your points. But 3 idiots leaves a sweet taste in your mouth. I do have problems with the South Indian caricature (a problem that cannot be solved in Hindi movies) in Chatur and the imposter getting away with the degree in a good college like this. But then, it was definitely a memorable watch. Yes, it is less impressive than Lage Raho...

  3. Excellent!!! I agree with every word here..! All is not well..with the movie!
    Super review!

  4. you are right about the situations in the movie being exaggerated but as arjun has written, the movie leaves a sweet taste in your mouth. Moreover, i somehow love hirani's style of telling a story in this sweet, non-serious, exaggerated and comic way. He allows me to dream, believe in miracles and laugh at stupid things that we all do in our daily lives. The point is that you can identify with the characters or at least you can identify with the character's dreams and relate them with your own. Then, you start loving all the stupidity that happens on screen. And frankly for me this is hirani's best so far.

  5. @ All... thanks for the appreciation. It's also nice to hear disagreeing comments ;)



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