Remember how filmmakers used to give us aural cues on when to cry at the movies?

Yes, the one we still remember from Kabhi Khushi Gham Gham (Lata Mangeshkar’s haunting voice going ‘Aaa aaa aaaa?) also employed in other Johar-Chopra flicks. Rajkumar Hirani is the new carrier of that beacon of manipulative melodrama and I say that with great gratitude to Hirani and team. Lata Mangeshkar has been replaced by Shreya Ghoshal.

Over the last few years, filmmakers seemed to have lost their flair for drama. It was either muted and understated Farhan Akhtar style or pretentious cool deadpan from the Sanjay Gupta factory. It was either way over the top by the likes of Anil Sharma and camp or expressed through brooding intensity by Ram Gopal Varma’s ilk.

Good old tear-jerking drama with feel-good that we last saw only in the Munnabhai series is back. Now, Hirani is more Karan Johar than Johar himself used to be.

3 Idiots is your good old Hindi film that milks the Navrasas steeped in the Indian ethos and storytelling culture to make you laugh, cry, think and provoke. A forgotten tradition that only Bhansali, Johar and Hirani carry on.

For that reason alone, 3 Idiots is one of the best films this year.

A lesson to the education system

If Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone was about three friends coping to study in one of the best institutions in the country, Hirani’s adaptation that begins with the same premise turns into an in-your-face moral science lesson to the education system in the country – one where it’s the student who does all the teaching.

It looks more like Rancho (Aamir) joined the college for the sole purpose for teaching the Director a lesson than to learn something himself as the film moves from one episode to the other, all intended to be nuggets of insight on what’s wrong with the system.

What makes this predictable is that the writers (Hirani and Abhijat Joshi) set it up in terms of deliverables that will happen in the course of the movie, with some well-written lines and some that fall flat.

Take a look

1. Right somewhere in the first few scenes, the director of the college, Virus (Boman) tells the students that the best student will get his special pen that can write in space. We all know who’s going to get it.

2. Rancho (Aamir) dreams of Pia (Kareena) in bridal wear riding a scooter. Only that instead of a veil, she’s wearing a helmet. How will this not come true in a Hindi film?

3. Virus promises to shave his moustache off if two of the Idiots get placed. Like we don’t know what would happen to that.

4. A fellow student called Silencer has a bet with Rancho that he will be way more successful than him in ten years time by sticking to the system that requires him to ‘mug’. Again, a no-brainer.

5. A baby inside a mother’s womb kicks every time he/she hears ‘Aal iz Well’ (the 'Jadoo Ki Jhappi' of this film) and we know it’s a matter of time before the mantra works magic in the film.

Yes, there are more such examples for every sub-plot, whether it’s about a letter for internship with a photographer that Farhan (Madhavan) hasn’t posted or a saree worth Rs.2000 that Raju (Sharman) wants his Mom to wear.

Though these obvious set-ups make the narrative predictable, it is to Hirani’s credit that he still delivers an entertaining narrative that shifts gears between comic-book humour and heavy-duty drama with ease.

There’s a strong sense of déjà vu especially since Hirani also repeats his type-cast – Boman as caricature Principal and Parikshit Sahni as a strict patriarch waiting to melt. When you consider that the hero here too is playing Agony Uncle, this could very well be Munnabhai Ban Gaya Engineer.

For one-third of the film, it is a one-man show with Aamir doing almost everything in the film, the other two Idiots playing mere sidekicks. Madhavan and Sharman have more to do in the present day narrative (the parallel track of their college days is told through a flashback) replete with coincidences and twists of convenience (one character is getting married the same day, another is at a funeral and yet another keeps talking about his business upcoming meeting with a celebrated scientist). It’s as far as it gets from realism but it’s all good-natured masala fun nonetheless.

With all these imperfections in the screenplay, 3 Idiots needed the actors to deliver. And, the ensemble is fantastic. Aamir, Madhavan and Sharman all have a scene each to make you cry and they pull it off quite credibly. So do Boman and Kareena.

Take your hankies along, wipe off those tears every now and then and smile. Aal iz Well with our Hindi fillums again!

Genre: Drama

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

Cast: Aamir Khan, R. Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Kareena Kapoor, Boman Irani

Storyline: Ten years after they’ve passed out from college, two friends embark on a journey to find their lost buddy

Bottomline: Feel-good drama is back with a vengeance

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