My pick for Diwali this year would be 3 Idiots. This film had been recommended before by everyone I spoke to about Bollywood, but the title never appealed to me. Nor did the plot: the film starts in medias res, when two of the three idiots receive the first of several clues that will lead them ultimately to their lost university friend, the third idiot, and the film consists mainly of flashbacks of their antics as students.
But when I finally watched it, I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. So different from the theatricality of Khabi Khushi Khabie Gham, 3 Idiots allowed for more character development and had me rooting for the main characters all the way through. Not least because the characters were more the sort that I might run into on the street. Moreover, the songs did not upstage the narrative and acting, and scenes were genuinely funny. The film was shorter, the narrative not disjointed. And there were some beautiful lines, such as this one about love.
“When you see him, do the winds whisper a melody? Your scarf fly in slow motion? The Moon appear gigantic?”
My one complaint would be that while 3 Idiots does depict the relationship between the three friends in a heartfelt way, the only sense of equality between the three is in their nicknames given to them by their professor, “idiots”. In fact, the group has two idiots and one mentor for whom the nickname “idiot” never suits, who saves the day and liberates the minds of nearly everyone by the end of the film, bar the university snob. In short, the joke is never directed at this ringleader of the idiots, which is a point weakness in this otherwise strong comedy. He is too much of a flawless hero.
Yet for all the fairytale feel, Bollywood’s answer to Hollywood’s college movies is more realistic and relevant to us than the American blockbusters. Bollywood college movies may have their own stereotypes but at least you get the sense that students actually study, and college life is not one long party. Even the romance is more believable and, despite some cliches, less conventional. The love interest is quite independent, whatever first impressions of her may be. Khabi Khushi Khabie Gham turned life into drama; 3 Idiots excels at turning drama into life.