3 Idiots (2009) – By Duane L. Martin

3 Idiots starts off in the present day. A man, Farhan (Madhavan), is on an airplane and gets a call from someone he went to school with, a little pissy guy named Chatur (Omi Vaidya), saying that he’s located another friend they went to school with named Rancho (Aamir Khan). Unable to get off the plane that’s about to take off, Farhan fakes a heart attack to get taken off on a medical emergency, and then cons his way into a cab, picks up his other friend, Raju (Sharman Joshi) and heads to a rooftop where Chatur wanted to meet them. Once they arrive, Chatur angrily shows them a date that he had carved into the wet cement there on the roof ten years ago, when he told the three that he would meet them back there in ten years and then they would see who was the most successful. Chatur was now a successful business man. Raju had become an engineer and Farahn had followed his dream of becoming a wild life photographer. Neither were as financially successful as Chatur, but there was one person missing from this little gathering – their friend Rancho. The film follows them on their journey to find the last of the trio so that Chatur can finally win the bet he believes he’s going to win, and has been so desperate to win for the last ten years. No one knows why he left suddenly, or why he hadn’t contacted any of them, but Chatur had come across a random image of him in the background of a photograph, so now they were going to find him…if possible. Along the way, they have to stop the wedding of the girl Rancho loved before she marries a money obsessed jerk, and hopefully deliver her to an unwed Rancho so they can finally be together and have the life, and the love that both really wanted.

3 Idiots is nearly a three hour film. Without writing half a book’s worth of description, there’s really no way to get into all the stuff that goes on in this film. That description above is only one aspect of a variety of side issues and other things that were going on in the film, but what I mentioned above is more or less the main point of the story.

Now, before I go any further, I’d like to mention that many people don’t know this about me, but I LOVE Bollywood films. The fun ones anyway. I’m not big on the serious, drama filled romances, but the fun ones…I have a really nice collection of them, filled with awesome people like Akshay Kumar, Salman Kahn (Aamir’s real life brother), Kareena Kapoor (who played Pia, Rancho’s girlfriend in this film), Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra, Sahid Kapoor and many, many others. So when I got the opportunity to get a screener of this film to review after having wanted to see it for quite some time, I jumped at the chance, and boy am I glad they sent it to me. I can sum up this film in one simple sentence…

This is THE best film, Bollywood or otherwise, of the last decade.

There, I said it, and I mean every word. I have a lot of films I absolutely love, but it’s incredibly rare to come across one that, when it’s over, you just sort of lean back and think to yourself, "Wow. Just…wow. That was beyond amazing."

But what made it so good? Well, rather than go into full on details about every aspect of what made it so incredible, which really would turn this review into a book, here’s a list of just some of what gives it its wow factor.

1. The Cast

The entire cast of this film, without exception, were absolutely brilliant. Aamir Khan started out the film playing a college guy around 18-21 years old, and if I hadn’t have looked at his bio on IMDB, I’d have never thought anything of it. The guy is 45 years old! How he manages to look 21 at 45…man, I want some of what he’s drinkin’! He was very likeable in this film from start to finish. The kind of a guy you wish you had as a best friend. He always had a smile, a joke, a reassuring word or some advice on life, that usually centered around his favorite expression, "Aal izz well" (no, that’s not a typo), which he would say while he patted his heart.

Boman Irani plays Viru Sahastrabudhhe (how the hell do you even pronounce that?), the director of the Imperial College of Engineering. It’s a character very similar to the one he played in Munna Bhai M.B.B.S, in which he played the head of a medical school. He was in both Munna Bhai movies actually, as well as many others. He’s a VERY familiar face to anyone who’s a fan of Bollywood films, and he plays pretty much any role handed to him brilliantly, but he especially shines in these types of roles. As the director of the school, he has a very hard set opinion of how things should be run, how the students should be educated, how they should be disciplined, etc…. He looked totally different in this one than he usually looks though. He was darker, like he’d been tanning, had crazy hair (kinda like an Indian Einstein) and he talked with a VERY pronounced lisp. Again, the performance was amazing, and I always love seeing him in anything.

I’ve seen Kareena Kapoor play everything from a sweet, fun and hilariously loveable girl in Jab We Met with Sahid Kapoor, to a hard core straight up bitch in Kambakkhy Ishq with Akshay Kumar. While she’s equally adept at playing both extremes, and everything in between, I absolutely love her when she plays a sweet, happy and fun character like she did in this movie, and in Jab We Met. When she smiles and is happy and having a good time, she can literally light up and entire room. You can’t help but smile when you see her like this, and it makes you feel good. Her playing a character like that in this film and playing so well off of Aamir Kahn’s character, just created an amazing chemistry that you could really feel. It was a chemistry shared by Aamir Khan with his friends in the story as well.

I don’t know if I’ve seen Madhavan in anything else offhand, but he was very likeable and someone you really wanted to succeed. Sharman Joshi I’m pretty sure I’ve seen in other things, but nothing I currently own, so I can’t remember exactly what I’ve seen him in before. Both of these guys are incredibly likeable and fun to watch on the screen. Again, it’s all about the chemistry between the characters, and these guys had it in spades.

2. The Story

This film, even though it switched between the past and the present, do so so seamlessly story-wise, that you never felt like you didn’t want to switch yet. Each transition was done at just the right time, and it kept everything interesting and flowing really well. The best part about this story isn’t how brilliantly it’s developed, how detailed it is, how three dimensional the characters are, or even how it flows so beautifully. The best part about this story is how brilliantly it covers a full and complete emotional range. The humor really works and is very funny, the nice parts are really nice, the depressing parts are really depressing, etc…. You’ll feel a full range of emotions watching this film, and you’ll love every second of it. Oh, and by the way, all that other stuff I mentioned about the story…that’s all there too…in spades.

3. The Music

Normally I fast forward through many of the songs in Bollywood films. Not so much because I don’t like them, but because Bollywood films tend to range from two and a half to three hours long, and the songs really don’t add anything to the story usually, so I skip them just out of a desire to focus on the story and get the movie over a litte faster. I have to admit, I did that in this film as well, but for a different reason. I received this screener really late in the month, and it was the last film I had to review, so I had to get through it and get started on the writing to get it done in time for the May issue. You’re reading this in the May issue, so obviously I did. Still, even though I fast forwarded through the songs, I did watch about a minute of each one just to get a general feel for them, and I have to say, the songs in this film are excellent. I will be watching this film again after I get this issue of the magazine out, and next time I’m going to let the songs run. I’m not sure I can put into words just why they were so much better than your average Bollywood film, but you’ll just have to trust me. From what I did listen to, they were amazing. (Update: I had time to re-watch the film before I posted this review, and I did watch the songs. They were excellent!)

4. The Locations

There’s not a location in this film that wasn’t perfect for the story and the scene that was being played out in it, and I have to say, the final scene, which takes place in Ladakh, a mountainous area with gorgeous lakes and a skyline to die for, is one of the most beautiful places I think I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, as beautiful as it was, if you watch the special features on this release, you’ll see that what you see in the film, wasn’t the film crew’s first experience with the location. In fact, the first time they went there, it actually snowed, and it snowed to the point that they had to cancel the shoot until the snowy season was over. If that wasn’t bad enough, they got snowed in, and had a hell of a time getting the people and equipment out of there. It’s a really interesting item in the special features, and when you watch this film, you’ll definitely want to check that out.

I could go on and on about how awesome this movie is, but there’s no point in telling you. Get this movie and see it for yourself. I don’t care if you’ve never seen a Bollywood film before, or if you’re well versed in all things Hindi. See this movie ASAP. It’s so far beyond brilliant, that even I as a writer can’t come up with any words to tell you how special and just utterly amazing it is. You’re going to feel incredible when you finish watching it, and it’s absolutely one you’ll want to own and keep in your collection so you can watch it over and over again in the future.

This release of the film, surprisingly comes from 20th Century Fox. When I buy Indian movies, I usually buy them from the Indian companies that release them, so it’s unusual to see an American company doing a Bollywood release here in the U.S.. I find it really encouraging, and hope it’s a trend we see more of.

As for the release itself, the transfer is beautiful, it has excellent sound and it comes with English, Spanish and French subtitles. It has four special features on the disc, including the one I mentioned above, a look at the making of the "Aal Izz Well" song section of the film, a look at the three main characters during their drunk scene when they did so many takes they almost ran out of film stock and a look at how they came up with just the right look for Katrina Kapoor’s character. The special features are all in English, but with the accents, I wish they had subtitled them so they’d be easier to understand clearly.

Just as a side note here, something you’ll get used to when you get into Bollywood films, is how much English they mix into their language. They can be rolling off some tirade or whatever in Hindi, and then all of a sudden you’ll hear an English sentence or two before they go back into Hindi. India was part of the British Empire, and as such, English became ingrained into their language and speech patterns.  Anyway, there’s no reason to go on with this. Get this movie now. Trust me, you NEED to see this movie.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, look it up on YouTube or Google. I’m sure you’ll find plenty about it, as it was one of the most immensely popular Bollywood films ever. As for this 20th Century Fox DVD release, you can pick it up at any of the usual outlets.