After much ado, I watched '3 Idiots' with the husband on Saturday. As is normal with me, I got late getting ready and we missed the first 15 minutes of the movie, much to the husband's annoyance. He was really sweet about it and didn't fuss too much.
My head was buzzing with all the controversies and publicity around the movie being a rip-off from the book, Five Point Someone, by Chetan Bhagat. Bhagat's numerous claims on Twitter that people went back to him saying the movie was hugely inspired by the book and comments on his blogs stating that everything in the movie was out of the book had led me to believe that the movie would be an exaggerated version of the book.
If you start watching the movie with that in mind, it is not so much fun. The movie feels fake whereas the book real. Brush those thoughts aside and watch the movie, it is immensely enjoyable. At various points, it seems real in a strange way. As real as fantasy can get. Most of the humour lies in the conversation and delivery but there are some comic acts too. The writer has preferred to use Hindi without the intrusion of English or any other language.
Spoiler Alert: If you haven't but intend to read the book or watch the movie, avoid this review.
The book was realistic. It was believable and it is definitely something that the college-going crowd can identify with. That's why the book became so popular among the younger crowd. The movie, on the other hand, is hugely exaggerated, as most movies go and has traces of a typical Aamir Khan style. The focus of the movie is entirely different from that of the book, as is the treatment of the theme.
While the skeleton of the book has been preserved, the fleshy bits have been significantly modified to appeal to the larger audience that the cinema goes out to. The spotlight has been moved from the main character of the book to the more fun character in the movie, to keep the viewers amused as the tale unfolds. The target audience for the message that jumps out of the movie is parents, teachers and students of all genres.
The writer of the book places himself (Hari) at the centre of the story, with some significant characters woven around it - his 2 friends, the dean's daughter, a lecturer or two. Bhagat narrates the story from a first-person point of view and he could be any one of us, never the star of the college. He brings out the picture of the state of affairs in an IIT, from the student's point of view, without directly doling out a moral at the end of the book.
When we reached the theatre, the scene on screen was that of the seniors-ragging-first-years i.e. first year students. That's the first of the many ideas taken out of Bhagat's book - first for me, I came in 15 minutes late, remember? As is the case with almost all of the ideas that were picked out of the book, this was not a mere exaggeration of the way the writer has related the event but handled in a completely different manner.
In the book, the scene has the seniors ragging 3 students - Hari, Alok and Ryan. Alok is the wimp, who is ready to burst into tears, Ryan is the hero among the 3, who saves them from humiliation and scares the seniors away while Hari is the in-between character who neither whines nor has the nerve to protest. The movie, on the other hand has a large room full of scared first year students, all stripped down to their underwear. The senior is standing at the door, trying to get Rancho (Ryan's name in the movie) out of his room. Rancho ignores him, plays a prank right back at him (a moothra visarjan gone horribly wrong) and instantly becomes the hero of all the juniors (except the nerdy guys, of course). Alright, so both the book and the movie start with the ragging scene and Ryan a.k.a Rancho emerges hero - that's where the similarity stops. The literature in the book greatly differs from the comedy in the script.
Move a few reels ahead. Change of rooms. Alok moves out of his room and checks in with the geek of the class, Venkat, as a fallout with his friends after they scored low grades. He blames Ryan easy-going attitude and Hari hero-worship of Ryan as the reason for his bad marks. Raju & Farhan are invited by the dean into his room and advised to switch rooms if they want to perform well in the exams and steer clear of Rancho's companionship. Raju moves in with nerdy Chatur, Farhan stays with Rancho.
Who gets the girl? The hero always gets the girl. Hari falls in love with the professor's daughter, "does it" with her and uses her keys without her knowledge to steal papers from her father's office. There's a fair deal of emphasis in the book, of her relationship with her brother who was believed to have been hit by a train but had committed suicide. The father finds out only in the end and his has a change of heart from the grumpy professor that he always was. Rancho wins Neha, the dean's daughter (professor Viru Sahasrabuddi, popularly called ViruS), with his charming ways. Neha has a scooter, which plays a fair role in adding to the comic element in the movie. She incites them into stealing papers from her father's office and the only reference to her brother is very much later in the movie. As for the all-famous "doing it", the movie chooses the more conservative path and they don't even kiss till the end of the movie. This is in keeping with how Rancho's character emerges in the end and is also used to add a bit of humour to the romance.
Raju/Alok attempts to kill himself. Alok jumps off the terrace of the IIT building because he cannot get his sister married, cannot get good grades and cannot give up his friends. Raju jumps out the window of the dean's office because he is nearly rusticated after being caught peeing on the front door of the dean's house, in a drunken state one night. He has to chose between being thrown out of college or telling on his friends. He chooses to die. Alok's recovery is fast-forwarded to a few days, all is well in the end. In the movie, Rancho and Farhan go through a number of attempts to save their paralysed-but-brain-alive friend (don't know if that's possible in real life but it's only a movie, so the friends can save a life that a doctor cannot).
As I said when I started off, the skeleton is definitely the book. The treatment very movie-like. If you try to make a comparison, you might be biased to chose one against the other, depending on what your preferences are. I found the book closer to reality and had I watched the movie with that in mind, I might not have enjoyed it at all. As separate entities, they are entertaining.
Apart from the various hilarious moments in the movie, there are a fews twist towards the end - some predictable ones (ViruS gives his famous zero-gravity space pen to Rancho), some not so predictable (who is Phunsukh Wangdu and how did he get there). There are a few emotional moments and some unbelievable heroic deeds (Engineering students delivering a baby with a vaccum cleaner on the TT table in the engineering college campus, you have got to be kidding me!!).
The take-away bits from the movie are entirely original. Even though I was skeptical the first time he mentions it, 'Aal eez well' (All is well) seems to have become quite a popular mantra among viewers. That explains all the status messages on Gtalk and Facebook, in the recent weeks. Then there's the extremely funny "Jahanpana, tussi great ho, tohfa kubool karo" (Your Highness, you are great, please accept my gift) - where the guy pulls down his pants, turns around and bends over at Rancho, as a sign of admiration! Love it when Chatur does this in the end, accepting Phunsukh Wangdu as superior to him
There is lots more that I haven't mentioned in this blog but if I had to cover all of them, I'd be narrating the story of the movie and reproducing the book here. It's worth a watch, might as well spend a few bucks. Value for money, either way - book or movie. I read the book, watched the play and then the movie. Watching the movie again today. The buck stops here.
I am even more convinced, after watching the movie that the entire controversy between Aamir Khan and Chetan Bhagat was staged. Bhagat has got his due credit (yes, I stayed to watch the credits and see where his name appeared) and his book sales have shot up. Khan and the movie-makers are still minting money out of the movie. The script-writer got his vi-si-bi-li-ty (a.k.a Paulo Coelho style) and his dialogues are repeated in offices and colleges. Everyone is happy. Did I miss mention of the audience? Oh no.. they are happy too. No one's complaining.
The movie also has a few rip-offs from ads on television and the internet. Cliches but well presented. Remember the ad where the kid finishes his exam paper well past the time and stuffs his answer sheet in the middle of the bundle when the professor says he doesn't know who he is? Remember those email forwards of a man in black taking pictures of half a dozen women in burqas? I wonder what might happen if all those people came looking for credits. I bet none of them have got any mention in the names that scroll through.
The ugly business that the media happily fired and flamed has now relegated to being warm coal in the fireplace. Aal eez welll.
PS. While Aamir Khan is really good in the movie, the guy who took my heart away... Maddy. Look out for Farhan in the movie!