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Will the idiots make us any wiser?
By Sushant Sharma

The record success of the movie 3 idiots has brought Indian education system into focus. How do students view it: will they aspire for excellence or use the 'system' as an excuse for their failures?

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At about the time 3 idiots were making news; a spate of student suicides in Mumbai had rattled the nation. For once, the ‘reel’ was projecting the ‘real’ – addressing the ordeal the younger generation has to pass through. While the story has contemporary relevance to woo the masses, the script has tenacious narrative to swing the box office. But will 3 idiots make us any wiser?

Can real ‘Farhans’ like his reel counterpart, mock the society’s orthodox rules and chase their unorthodox dreams of a much happier and satisfied life, even if that did not exactly translate into a prosperous life too? Or can the real ‘Rajus’ shed their fears and rise from abject poverty to shine in life much like the reel Raju?

Can the masses really be stirred and awaken to bring about the much needed change in our education system that sacrifices quality for quantity? Students no longer learn, they are made to learn, all to achieve monetary success. The system is modelling them to become a memory machine, ready to pour the facts on the answer sheets. The mind remains subservient to the system!

One does not necessarily need to be bright to top in a class, human versions of a Xerox machine can be the toppers too. One no longer feels the thirst for knowledge. The only drive that makes everyone strive is for good grades and the consequent pay package. Dreams have no place in the world where money has become the ‘sole’ indicator of success.

The only drive that makes everyone strive is for good grades and the consequent pay package. Dreams have no place in the world where money has become the ‘sole’ indicator of success.

Teachers or gurus of the past were revered by their students and the teachers respected their pupils too. But nowhere is that inkling of the past seen in today’s paradigm of teaching. The denigrating educational system has reduced teachers to being repetitive, teaching what they taught a decade ago. The only change being the number of grey hair on their scalp.

The head professor in the movie is shown delivering the inception speech umpteenth time to fresh entrants. His speech is repetitive to the last word that even the chai-wala boy who has overheard it each year repeats each line with utmost ease, mocking the inherent flaw in the system. Young dreams are ruthlessly killed, reproduce what is taught. Period!

What the young mind yearns to be is nobody’s concern. The tag line - ‘chase excellence, success will follow’ says it all. Take parents’ mindset, teachers’ attitude and the rigid system into count and the guiding mantra gets reduced to ‘success’. Excellence is for some other time, some other place because it is an exception that is at best told as fairy tales.

Rajkumar Hirani scripts the crises through the story of 3 idiots who find themselves different in the world of clones because they were convinced that `even if one wins the rat race, one remains a rat’. Led by Rancho, the 3 idiots script distinct goals for themselves. Each of the three characters is so close to real life, you seem to identify with them instantaneously.

Farhan, the first ‘idiot’, yearns to become a wildlife photographer but his father thinks otherwise. He dismisses his son’s passion as a stupid dream. Farhan toils without interest, earning the distinction of being the last in his semester examination. As in real life, parents reprimand their only son to catch up before it is too late.

The second ‘idiot’ Raju hails from a poor family background and sees engineering as the ladder to climb out of poverty. A paralyzed father, an ailing mother and an unmarried sister are banking on his success. Fear of failure turns the otherwise intelligent student into a nervous-wreck who does extremely bad in the semester results.

The ‘3 idiots’ film has used the medium effectively to convey a simple message – liberate the young generation from the pressures of parental obsession and change the definition of ‘success’.

Rancho, the lead ‘idiot’ is a true learner. He studies not for grades but for  the fun of learning. A natural rule breaker who has frequent run-ins with the  professors makes him infamous with the teachers.

The story builds up to show the three protagonists overcome their fears and realise their goals. The story is narrated by Farhan (now a professional wildlife photographer) and Raju (now well-off and successful) as they recall their college days and set out to find their best friend Rancho who had quietly cut off the ties with his friends after leaving the college.

Using a combination of humour and powerful satire, the script punches many one-liners that are thoughtful and haunting. Delayed arrival of ambulance to take Raju’s ailing father to hospital has her mother lamenting: `it’s a strange country, a pizza gets delivered in 30 minutes but a life-saving ambulance takes more time to reach’.

Credible performance by Aamir Khan, R Madhvan, Sharman Joshi and irresistible Boman Irani lend strength to an interesting script. Without being preachy, Rajkumar Hirani delivers the message with utmost sincerity. Innovative as he is, Hirani binds the audience with ‘all iz well’ – a simple phrase that means ‘stay positive’.

Can this movie bring about much needed change in the way education is currently being perceived in our country? Will teenage suicide be a thing of past? The ‘3 idiots’ film has used the medium effectively to convey a simple message – liberate the young generation from the pressures of parental obsession and change the definition of ‘success’. Excellence is waiting for them next door!

Sushant Sharma  |  sushant91@gmail.com

Sushant Sharma is a college fresher and an avid reader.

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Feedback /Comments on this article
Time for real change

A fantastic film, so humorously portraying the dark side of student life. Yes, so many children are molded from birth to become doctors/engineers to fulfill parents' dreams, and/or continue the family profession. Even at the time of marriage, spouses from the same profession are preferred. As a parent of a teenager and a 23-year old, I have seen so many parents agonising over poor marks, driving them from one tuition to another, spending thousands of rupees of hard earned money. Any other talent in the child is buried under maths and science lessons and the race for engineering/medical admissions. No wonder if kids become rebellious and resort to substance abuse under this kind of pressure. Studies and marks are often the subject of family disputes, and often extreme punishment. Any move to reduce pressure on kids, and more importantly, opportunities for them to realize their true potential, is welcome. Who is to bell the cat??

Posted By: Janaki Rao
Dated: Thursday, April 01, 2010

Fantastic movie!

Not sure about education system but the movie made tremendous amount of money by spreading this message. Director, writer and even the actors had probably undergone schooling in Indian education system and they produced a fantastic movie that will be remembered for quite a long time. Kind of effort they put in, amount of coordination they went through, skill set they used to put together film is possible only by inner strength. The movie puts this quality before formal education.

Posted By: Shivshankar Nagraj
Dated: Friday, March 05, 2010

3 idiots

Interesting review of the film. In reality the countrys education system is fully commercialsed and the 'excellence" means the pay packages that makes front page news, will the pressure be reduced and young minds be liberated by parents or educators?

Posted By: Pandurang Hegde
Dated: Monday, January 25, 2010

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Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

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