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Featured DVD Review: 3 Idiots

April 26th, 2011

3 Idiots - Buy from Amazon

When 3 Idiots opened in India in 2009, it set records, many of them. It went on to become the first Indian film to cross $50 million worldwide and was the first Bollywood film to earn more than $5 million here. On the other hand, it is still a niche market film. Will the movie find a cross-over audience now that it is coming out on DVD?

The Movie

The film starts with Farhan Qureshi on a plane that is taxiing on the runway. He receives a call on his cell phone that is so important that he fakes a heart attack to get off the plane. He then calls his friend, Raju Rastogi, and tells him Chatur "Silencer" Ramalingam told him Rancho has returned. He races out of his house so fast he forgets his pants. When they finally get to Chatur, Rancho is not with him. He just wanted to get them there so he could brag about his wealth, showing pictures of his big mansion, his fancy sports car, etc. It seems ten years earlier Chatur and Rancho were rivals at university and both studied engineering and they made a bet to see who would be more successful ten years later. Chatur has come to collect on that bet. But first, they will have to find Rancho, who has gone into seclusion, but he knows where.

While they travel to Shimla to meet with their old friend, we see flashbacks of their old life in university. Farhan, Raju, and Rancho were three friends enrolled in the engineering program. Farhan Qureshi was studying to become an engineer, because that's what he father declared he would be. Raju was there out of an obligation to support his family, which was dealing with illness and poverty. Rancho was there because he truly loved being an engineer. He loved problems and machines. This enthusiasm quickly got on the nerves of Viru Sahastrabuddhe, a.k.a., Virus, their head of the department. He labeled the three students as the 3 Idiots. On the other hand, Chatur was trying to become an engineer only for the money involved. He wanted to be massively rich. He also had no passion for the subject and studied through rote memorization, something that Viru loved, because this meant Chatur would do whatever Viru said.

The rest of the plot is rather episodic with many exploits the three friends went through. One such event happens when the three of them crashed a wedding looking for a free meal. While there, Rancho spots a woman, Pia, whose fiancee is acting like an ass and offers to show her a demonstration. Despite the demonstration going off exactly as he predicted, he isn't able to win her over. Worse yet, she's the sister of the bride, and their father is... Virus. Awkward.

The tone of the movie ranges from over-the-top silliness (like the musical number with the engineering students dancing in the shower while wearing towels) to rather dark (the movie deals with suicide on a couple of occasions). Fortunately, the swings in tone feel organic, even if they are a little sudden at times. And while the film can be episodic, it also builds a solid emotional core throughout. The film is aided by great writing and strong performances throughout the film. Aamir Khan is instantly charming and has great chemistry both with his two friends, R. Madhavan and Sharman Joshi, as well as with his romantic lead, Kareena Kapoor. Additionally, both Boman Irani and Omi Vaidya manage to balance playing the villains while still giving their characters humanity.

There are some weaknesses in the movie as well. For instance, there are a few contrivances here and there. What are the odds they would crash a wedding, only to find Virus is the father of the bride? And I did recognize a couple of the jokes. (The astronaut pen and turning in the test paper late were the two that most immediately come to mind.) Also, it is a Bollywood movie, so there are musical numbers, not all of which are strong, and it does weigh in at nearly 3 hours, which might test the patience of some viewers.

That said, in my opinion the positives outweigh the negatives by a large degree.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD are limited to four featurettes: Idiots in Ladakh, Aal Izz Well, 100% Idiots, and Making of Miss Idiot. Idiots in Ladakh is a 10-minute look at the filming in Ladakh, which is a mountainous region in northern India and they had to deal with less than ideal weather. Aal Izz Well is a 3-minute looking at the making of the music number. 100% Idiots is a 4-minute tale about the night shoot where they ran out of film. Finally, Making of Miss Idiot is a three-minute featurette on Kareena Kapoor and what she brought to the film.

That's not a lot of extras, but that's still better than most foreign language imports have.

The Verdict

3 Idiots broke records when it was released and it also picked up countless awards. Now I don't have a large enough grasp of the Indian movie industry to judge if the film is among the best made or not, but it was very entertaining. It has a great balance of humor and drama, the characters are engaging, and if you are a fan of the music, there's plenty of that too. The DVD isn't overloaded with extras, but it has enough to not seem barren either. Overall it is worth picking up.

One last note. Do people in India really use that much English in their day-to-day lives? I know 75% of Indian university graduates are fully fluent in English, but in the movie they went back and forth so often that I might have been able to follow the plot even without the English subtitles. And it's not like some characters would speak Hindi with certain characters and English with others. You would have conversations were they would speak Hindi one sentence and English the next and then speak a sentence that had both Hindi and English. Switching languages mid-sentence? That seems so strange to me.

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