There was a pop culture greatness to Rang De Basanti at the time it was released. And Dil Chahta Hai infused a flavour of freshness and kick started the urban upmarket genre reproduced by almost every filmmaker in Hindi cinema today. Apart from Aamir Khan, there isn’t any other common thread between these movies. The zeitgeist sensibilities of 3 Idiots springs from the identifiable depiction of engineering days of almost any Indian engineer. It can be safely claimed that engineering and aspiring for it has become a way of life for most of us.
Rajkumar Hirani is a very simple filmmaker. Predictable but instantly likable writing and staging has become his trademark so much that we would like to believe that he deliberately uses some recurrent themes in his movies. The righteous correcting the flawed, the practical convincing the emotional, the simplification of complex issues, the bride walking out of her wedding etc. Hirani is the only director today who probably comes closes to Hrishikesh Mukherjee n terms of writing. As far as film making is concerned, today’s market doesn’t allow him to retain Hrishi-da’s simplicity.
The first half is masterclass in writing by itself. Of course, only if you discount the couple of unoriginal jokes copied from popular vidoes and email forwards. I didn’t care much for the them but they do bring genuine laughs. The college scenes are a riot right from the ragging bit to Chatur Ramalingam’s speech that’s arguably one of the best directed scenes in recent times that would merit repeat viewings on Youtube. At the point when you just think the atmosphere is going to turn melodramatic, Hirani gets into the shoes of a bunch of pesky undgergrad engineering kids and walks around in them. The case in point being the scene right after the threesome’s visit to Raju Rastogi’s(Sharmaan Joshi) home. Ask any 19-21 year old in college and more importantly, an engineering college. The ability to laugh at almost anything, the absolute chalta hai attitude and trivialization of issues are like bread and butter. It’s as natural as pissing outside a hostel room door. Another of those great sequences comes when the three break in to their professor’s home so that Rancho can propose to Pia. The scene gets into a high point when they decided to break in and even do it, and maintains a low key until Rancho realizes he is babbling holding the wrong girl’s hand, and reaches a high when the professor recognizes Rastogi which leads to their ultimate downfall. Even literally.
Once the second half twist is established, the film is a sine wave. The present tense punctuated with occasional brilliance but fairly predictable and the return to flashback greeted with applause. Until we reach a midpoint where the film completely falls flat. The childbirth scene exists solely to tell you “See this is how helpful you will be if you are not a product of rote learning”. Though it starts off with lot of potential, once you see the whole dramatization with the baby stillborn, you lose every bit of interest in the scene. Another stagy bit is Raju’s interview sequence. Isn’t this an engineering college campus interview? Where is the technical interview Mr. Hirani? You need not have filmed it, but a passing reference? And the recruiters talk like they are recruiting an MBA and not an engineer! That’s why Farhan (Madhavan)’s closure seems more plausible than Raju’s. The cinematic license seems more justified in his situation.
Aamir Khan deserves a standing ovation for his business sense. There isn’t any other actor today who has that kind of business acumen. He knows exactly what’ll work, what won’t and how to hard sell a product. And even sell products that really don’t have much going for them (read Ghajini). There is a suspicion of method acting in the way he meticulously plays Rancho. The swagger that he’s developed, the loose trousers, hand inside pockets, the boyish enthusiasm from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander that he’s brought back with aplomb, all work beautifully. Kareena Kapoor impresses in parts and her best scene is the one where she visits Rancho drunk to give him the Director’s office keys. A very fine performance, there.
3 Idiots is not an achievement in terms of mainstream filmmaking the way Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti were. But real characters, real lines and almost flawless performances lift the movie to a different level. It doesn’t have many high points where we feel elated or we are rushed with excitement. But we are made to care for the characters throughout the film and that single high point makes this worth your while and deserves repeat viewing. If not for the final half hour, this could have very well been another Dil Chahta Hai this decade.
The 3 Idiots – Chetan Bhagat Controversy:
I am not sure how well I have understood the issue, but it is an issue that can easily be misinterpreted. I did see the “Based on Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone” at the closing credits. Chetan is peeved by the fact that the credits don’t appear in the opening but only in the closing credits. And basically, it means that Chetan’s name, according to him, should be right up there under Writing/Screenplay/Script along with Hirani and Abhijat Joshi who adapted it. Surely all this looks too amateurish to bicker over and what we need here is a solution to define the kind of credits accorded to the different contributors in different medium.
The only solution I can think of is to have something like the Writer’s Guild of America for Indian publications and films. Does anything like that already exist in India? With the way this issue has been played out, I doubt it does. Now sample this:
If there is no source material (novel, play, article, etc.) and the same writers receive credit for both the story and screenplay, the credit is “written by”.
The “story by” credit is used when the basic narrative structure was originally written with intent to be used for a movie (as opposed to a short story) and the actual screenplay had different authors. A shared “story by” credit is the minimum awarded to the author of an original screenplay.
If there was previously existing source material but the writer creates a substantially new and different story from the source, then the “screen story” (or “television story”) credit is used.
Finally, the “screenplay by” (or “teleplay by”) credit is used to denote the screenplay (teleplay) authorship if the story credit had to be separated as above. [link]
Now can it get anymore simpler than this? The original novel author is not left out. No matter how much the story and narrative structure has been modified, the author is and was the prime source. If not for his creation, the film would have never happened. Similarly, if Five Point Someone had not been written, 3 Idiots would have never happened. From what I understand, according to WGA rules, Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi must be credited under “Screen Story”. Right? Tony Gileroy was credited with screen story for The Bourne series because they modified a large part of Ludlum’s original writing. With the increasing number of books being adapted to screen in India, it’s high time we had a guild of our own. As much as I like 3 Idiots and thank Hirani, Chopra and Aamir for giving me one of the best movies of 2009, it’s sad that they decided to consider the whole “writing” part their own, when it is not. How can we expect the likes of Sanjay Gupta to credit Hollywood flicks they shamelessly rip off from, when people of the caliber of these three fail to recognize an originally Indian creation.