Monday, January 4, 2010

Three Idiots

Coming from the maker of two classics – what I describe as the triumph of good cinema – Lagey Raho Munna Bhai and Munna Bhai MBBS, it is not too optimistic to expect another gem. Three Idiots delivers for the most part, but not quite. It is a fun film which entertains and delivers its message quite well but so many ingredients are thrown into the pot that the plot thickens to virtual solidification.

Idiots is a coming of age story of three engineering students based very loosely on Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone. The book is a simple but personal story spun straight from the heart of an IITian contouring it with all the delicate details only an insider who’s lived the tale can tell. The script diverges by adding a few twists to the plot and pulls out of the hat an ideal – do what you love to do – which was absent in FPS.

“To thine own self be true, and it shall follow, as the night the day”, is an excellent message to be giving to the Indian masses; maybe a bit late in the liberalised day, but still extremely relevant and Hirani and Co. need to be lauded for that. I suspect, though, that the makers were not very keen on delivering the excellence message point blank, and sought instead to make it more palatable to the masses by introducing cheap comedic aspects, many a time too loud for audiences with refined tastes.

While tapori humour was almost perfectly in place in the Munnabhai movies, light blue men’s underwear, across the toilet conversations and electrified micturition seemed quite uncalled for in a movie, which had already diverged from narrating the honest college struggle. Idiots has about seventeen different plot elements, engaging, but compromising, I feel on the integrity of the central plot. Taare Zameeen Par, Khan’s 2007 Christmas movie is a brilliant example of what can be done if you choose not to pander to the LCD.

Aamir Khan has managed to pull it off – to no one’s surprise he delivers a strong performance as Ranchoddas Chanchad but where he amazes is that he actually looks younger than Kareena Kapoor. Madhavan, does not quite come through with the same grace, but he is excellent with emoting and his portrayal of Farhan Qureshi is quite convincing. In any event, the rapidity of the plot seldom lets your mind wander in the direction of the actors’ ages. Sharman Joshi is good in parts, but does not leave much of an overall impression, perhaps because his character is not fleshed out fully.

Boman Irani as Professor Viru Sahastrabudhhe, the difficult old antagonist, Kareena Kapoor as Rancho’s love interest are good but their characters lack strong cores. The professor's character in particular bends, wilts and mindlessly dances to the requirements of a masalaic movie. Virus may be an obstinate old fool, but if he loves his subject why does he hate his students so much (even Rancho who tops consistently) and callously watches students commit hara kiri as if he were some evil incarnate? Worse still, does it require a personal favour for a teacher to recognise the brilliance of a student? Omi Vaidya as Racho's student counterpoint Chatur "Silencer" Ramalingam sometimes feels like an irritating caricature. Mona Singh as Mona is nice but has slightly too much kicking around going on inside and around her.

Shantanu Moitra's tunes are catchy but not memorable, as with most music these days. The use of some techniques, akin to European cinema, particularly black-white sequences and character detailing is a very good attempt, but does not flow completely naturally. The parody of poverty, though very well done, does not sit very comfortably in the movie for me, for the reality of poverty in the family is that it breeds fear. Somehow, Raju’s suicide attempt and his mother's tears seem insufficient to free him from that trap plaguing young Indians and leave a vague feeling of irresolution.

In spite of all of the above, and the failure to match the extremely high Hirani-Aamir expectations, I will choose to thrust my palm on my heart, say “All-Ij-Well”, and give the movie a 3.5 star rating out of 5.

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