Day Thirty-One: 3 Idiots (MotM 2021)

Bollywood! Oh, my goodness! What a phenomenon! It’s taking over the film industry! Bollywood! Ahhhhh!

3 Idiots was immensely interesting to me as of a few days ago, upon hearing it labeled as someone’s favorite film. Not only that, however—a critic I trust gave it a 1/10. Said critic (as of 2015-16) even went as far as accusing shady behavior by Indian companies to inflate ratings and followers for films based in their country. So which is it? Overrated or matches the hype? This film would be the first step in experimenting which it may be, if any direction at all.

To make my feelings clear quickly, they are definitely mixed. What I had heard prior to viewing this was that it was a commentary on the ruthless nature of education and high-status jobs in India. Don’t be so serious; have fun with your life and follow your dreams. Such a sweet message in such an overall fun film! There’s dancing, there’s merriment; goofy dialogue and a strong camaraderie between the three leads. Despite being nearly three-hours long(!!!), I don’t believe there was ever a point where I said, “Man, why is nothing happening?

Same, bro.

Yet it is the implementation of these messages that has me most at odds with the story. Indeed, being a soulless, corporate “ass” who only cares about appearances and money is bad. Such stress on competition and placing first in everything destroys people’s mental health and well-being. I want to stress that this is not what I’m arguing against, and I praise the film for taking this route rather than leaving it ambiguous. But man, do these writers know what ambiguity means?

One review put it best when the title is misleading. While they took it in a negative direction, I’m using it more practically. There is only one idiot here: Rancho, the man played by Aamir Khan, shown in the middle of the cover image. But he’s not an actual idiot; he’s a genius, and the one that channels the message of the film with reckless abandon. He is the way, the truth, and the life. A beautiful purveyor of the teachings of the film and a confrontational symbol of all that is wicked about competitive Indian culture. He’s borderline perfect.

A small aside, but I found out something really interesting about the actors in this film. 3 Idiots takes place in two timelines: when the three are in college and ten years afterwards. Now, I can’t say I’m an expert in the age of Indian college students, but based on this film, it seemed to be anywhere from late teens to early twenties. The actors playing the three leads, at the time this film came out, were 44, 39, and 30. These three were playing college students. They certainly look young here, but… wow.

Two of these dudes are having mid-life crises.

Back to Rancho. Jesus Christ, he is not. However, he’s the Jesus Christ of this story. A genius, caring, considerate, and dedicated to the happiness of others. An individual so charming and considerate that he invigorates the young, impressionable minds with ease, along with swooning a lovely lady. Constantly monologuing and “owning” the crusty ol’ teachers with reasonable logic supporting emotional support and encouraging creativity. Absolutely no subtlety whatsoever; he is the hero the world needs, and everyone else simply follows in awe.

Early on, it was very obnoxious. Like a dude with a megaphone constantly yelling in your face, “I AM GOOD. THEY ARE BAD. I AM GOOD. THEY ARE BAD.” Later on when he became more established as part of the group, it was slightly less egregious. Still so in some regard, given he was constantly the center of attention and the one with all the witty answers. It’s almost a shame in that the two other “idiots” are pushed aside constantly for him. Issues stemming from their family lives are established pretty early on, but very rarely addressed until very specific moments. Like the writer wrote them up, forgot about them, and then quickly rushed back to cut off loose ends.

No loose ends for this guy.

Part of the “magic” to Bollywood for people is the catchy song and dance numbers. Admittedly, I did not care for them here. While they definitely have a lot of effort put behind them, I never really vibed with them. Their placement in the story also seemed unnecessary, usually cutting off the progression of the scene just to have it happen. Some are better than others, though in general I was just waiting for them to end.

A harshly executed message of goodness; one true star with everyone else mostly in the background; generally unappealing musical numbers. These are the major issues I have with 3 Idiots—everything else was pretty enjoyable. Some scenes were captivating in their cleverness, invigorating a wholesome aura of goodwill and heart. Other scenes continued this story’s strange fascination with showing men without pants. (Humor in general is pretty juvenile.) My overall feelings shifted wildly as it progressed, with the occasional up, up, up… and then down due to a really dumb scene.

Just accept it.

Despite whatever misgivings I have with it, this is something that will probably stick with me for a while. These idiots overall have a very charming chemistry to them. I liked seeing them just goof around, picking on each other and getting into trouble. No absolute message following them at every corner; no favoritism by the script because one of them is the narrative’s messiah. Give each character their own importance in equal measures, to really peg down the moral that all are important, no matter how they may struggle. Rancho is definitely important. The other two? Mmmmmm…

If this is among Bollywood’s best, it’s definitely not all that’s cracked up to be. Although I wouldn’t put myself totally out of the range of trying more just to see what else it has to offer. Rough as it is for me, the essence of fun shined through beautifully. It felt like it tried—that’s important to me. So I will show my appreciation for the film’s better parts, while slowly inching my head lower, so as to avoid the rotten fruit hurled at me as I pull its average rating southward.

As always, thank you for joining along and reading what I have to say on a daily basis. I am definitely looking forward to having 2-3 more hours of my days back—it was fun while it lasted! Thank you all for your time, and I hope you have a great day.

Final Score: 6/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

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