By John Bradshaw Layfield
BFP MOVIE REVIEWS! Every other week, the BFP will review a film, be it a simple evaluation or a richer, more academic analysis. The movies won’t always be new, but ones we believe are worthy of your time and your eyes. Enjoy—and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions, or if you’re interesting in writing reviews yourself!
I don’t mean to gush here, but 3 Idiots, directed by Rajkumar Hirani, is a truly remarkable film—heart-warming, honest, and deeply human, the movie is one of the strangest tour-de-force’s I’ve ever seen, but a tour-de-force nonetheless.
I say strange, because 3 Idiots is a film that quite simply shouldn’t work: it’s a comedy, it’s a drama, it’s a musical; it’s goofy, it’s serious, crass yet spiritual—you get the point. It’s a years worth of films crammed into 3 hours and yet it all somehow works, and works masterfully at that.
At the most basic level, you could say that 3 Idiots is an Indian coming of age film, but of course, it’s so much more. Arriving in the country at a truly critical time, the movie is above all else a visual exposition—and critique—of long-standing Indian traditions, told through the lens of college roommates Farhan Qureshi (R. Madhavan), Raju Rastogi (Sharman Joshi), and Ranchoddas “Rancho” Shamaldas (Aamir Khan): the 3 Idiots.
Farhan is an affable, gentle soul, who finds himself at the College of Engineering—“one of the best schools in India”—solely because his parents willed it to be so. It’s a practice not too uncommon in the country, with many parents deciding the professional path of their children before they can even walk. In truth, Farhan’s passions lie with wildlife and nature photography, not machines… but his Dad disallows him the chance to explore them, calling it all little more than “simple hobby.”
Raju, the second ‘idiot,’ is an extremely anxious man. Coming from an impoverished family, home to a sick, bedridden father and retired mother, he’s the family’s only shot at a better life. This immense pressure to succeed drives Rastogi to near-insanity, despite how many religious rituals he performs and incense he burns.
And then there’s Rancho. Armed with his trusty saying ‘aal iz well,’ the huge-hearted, curious, and vibrant Rancho is the conduit through which the film spreads it’s life lessons. Where his friends are troubled and misguided, Rancho is loving and pure, always there to offer an ear. While Aamir Khan’s performance is subtle—and often silly—it is incredibly moving, and never fails to absolutely rip me apart.
The film takes place over ten years, with the viewer getting glimpses of their passed time together in college while Farhan and Raju go on a trip to find their old friend in the present.
The three, at first simply roommates, soon become inseparable. In awe of the incredible Ranchodas, Farhan and Raju become his humbled disciples. Together, they take on staunch headmaster Doctor Viru “Virus” Sahastrabuddhe (Boman Irani) and his oppressive, pressure-cooker approach to education, smarmy fellow student (and perpetual farter) Chatur Ramalingham (Omi Vaidya), their controlling and manipulative parents, moments of depression and vulnerability, and what it means to be a good friend, lover, and human being; together, they learn about themselves, their place in the world, and find a reason to live.
Balancing all those stories and emotions is a near-impossible act, but one Hirani perfected; the social commentary so prevalent throughout the film certainly gets it time to shine, but not at the expense of a few laughs or a few tears, depending on the mood. Beyond that too is this core message of ‘all is well,’ that all is possible if you have a little faith and a little grit. Cheesy, maybe. Easy, too… but powerful nonetheless.
It is hard to write about a movie as rich and varied as 3 Idiots is, and to prevent what it sure to become increasingly incoherent babblings, I’ll leave you with this: 3 Idiots is a film that deserves your attention—do yourself a favor and go watch it.