Thursday, December 31, 2009

3 Idiots

Watching 3 Idiots was a bitter-sweet experience which is probably an unusual reaction to a movie that tries for the most part to tickle your funny bone. It took me back to my own engineering college days in India, the experience of having let off steam after cooking for more than two years the ultimate pressure cooker that is the process of preparing for the entrance tests to get into one of these colleges.

A lot of kids (myself included) checked out of system completely - we bided our time until graduation and tried to get by applying ourselves as little as possible. After all the work it took to get in there, the education we were being offered was underwhelming to say the least. Many of us were not even interested in becoming engineers but had been goaded there by a combination of societal and parental pressures and had no idea what to do next. In the best case, we would go through the motions on auto-pilot, keeping our heads above the water and find ourselves gainfully employed at twenty two. In a sense, the whole business of competing for and getting into engineering college had killed our capacity to dream bigger more bolder dreams.

So many memories come back watching this movie - the hazing rituals, the nicknames that people acquire that have the ability to capture their essence of who they are in a word or a phrase, a learning focused on cram and recall instead of independent, creative thinking and then the psychotic professors. 3 Idiots covers much of that familiar ground.The bare bones story-line is entirely credible though you have to make the necessary discounts for the bravura Bollywood flourishes. It is also advisable not get too finicky about minor details such as why a man in his 40s is chosen to play the part of a teenager or if a vaccum cleaner can in a pinch become part of a midwife's emergency toolkit - such persnicketiness is not the ideal way to savor a Bollywood flick.

I was reminded of the suicides on our campus while I was a student there. The first time it happened, our class went into a state of shock, our seniors had seen it before and took it much more stoically. By the time of the final semester, we were to the point, where we counted ourselves lucky if the kid who had decided to end their life was not someone we were close to.

Back in the day, I have worried about hyper-competitive room-mates whose lives (literally and figuratively) rode on their performance in exams, campus interviews, GREs, GMATs, CATs and such. Then there were the great white hopes from impoverished families who had the dreams and aspirations of several generations riding on them - potrayed in the movie by the character of Raju Rastogi. If you have known one of them, you come to have a much keener appreciation for D.H Lawrence's Rocking Horse Winner.

The movie also brought back many happy memories - the anti-establishment kids we goaded and dared to needle professors we all hated, the brutally funny things we said about each other and about those who "taught" us, friendships that turned out to be life-changing and  romances that did or did not end up in fairy tale marriages. The final meeting between Chatur (the flatulent nerd with the personality of a sun-tanning gecko) and Rancho (sensitive alpha-geek with a burning desire to learn and far above the fray to need to compete - the kind of kid you never forget) is so reminiscent of the one-upmanship games that get played on Facebook walls and mailing list updates.

A lot of my former classmates still carry yardsticks from undergrad days to measure the worth of their peers. There is more than a little schadenfreude to see the class topper married to a senior who everyone knew was gay - the girl was so busy studying, she never got or read the memo. There is also awe and envy about kids on the fringe - the ones who failed to distinguish themselves in any way whatsoever - were no more than scenery on campus for four years - the "idiots" by this movie's definition,  but are now extremely successful.

Then there is the big, fat layer of mediocrity where many of us find ourselves today. Some are comfortable because they expected no better and then there are those who cannot imagine how they ended up where they are - they were destined for much better given their ranks, grades and other quantitative measures of success. To that end, the relentless point proving and point scoring - I am less mediocre than you, I make more than you, my house is bigger than yours, my cars are fancier than yours, I travel further and more often than you do, I look younger than you do, I am happier than you, my children and my spouse are better than yours.

In a movie, you can have that all end at one reunion after ten years in Ladakh - the winner gets the last laugh and the loser leaves chastised. In real life, it never really ends and it ceases to be funny after a while. Back to the 3 Idiots - would definitely recommend watching it. Aamir Khan (age notwithstanding) gives a superb performance and the rest of the crew is not half bad either.

1 comment:

Dr.Nilesh patel said...

i think...society and students are not interested in controversies but they are interested in changes in education systems and issues of parenting like...a child bird with robot wings!, robot or individuality?, r we teaching the race ?...etc. plz visit www.garbhsanskar2.blogspot.com