Rajukumar Hirani’s power as a director comes from the vision of world he creates. It can be called a world of ‘convenience reality’, his world is only real to the extent he wants it to be. But, it is his unique style of exaggeration where he chooses to address a relevant problem by dressing his characters and conversation in a manner which lends his narrative clarity and often helps him find his destination. He has been primarily a story teller where he chooses to create a somewhat simplistic model of the world he chooses, but it is the genuine warmth that his narrative exudes makes him an important filmmaker. However, with 3 Idiots, too much to recount at hand becomes his undoing rather than privilege and the movie ends up sneaking into different zones, peeking, often sniffing, passing a statement and then moving on to different parts of the story.
One of the liberties taken by our story tellers for eons has been the use of clichés. It is a convenient device that instantly polarizes the different characters and clearly draws a line by delineating clearly what is to be ridiculed and what is to be taken sides with. Hirani is no different here. Like Bhagat he sets his story and bombards it with characters that are painfully stereotypical. The movie is a depressing celebration of motley of clichéd characters who clamor after your attention: a nerd who is oblivious to ways of life and does not defer to human feelings, same can be said about the college dean, the female lead’s beau is a yawningly out and out black character who is blatantly stupid and materialistic, the main characters are under performers and therefore, by default ‘cool’ and ‘different’. Such shallow understanding of people that throng the campus and hence translating them to mere stereotypes stems from limited understanding of college life and plagues the movie quite badly, because the majority of conflicts arise from these stereotypes which makes the whole situation a farce and nothing else.
It can’t be denied that Hirani has an interesting premise at hand. In fact, the most relevant and pertinent than his previous two movies; the age old debate examining the importance of grading system, the fact whether our current education system stifles independent thinking.etc, It is also commendable what he chooses to do with those questions, but the fact remains it is not a concentrated effort and the movie never settles into one zone. Also, what hurts the movie’s prospects is the fact that Hirani is more concerned about the fantastic quirks of the characters and exposing them so as to extract numerous laughter moments on screen. He is less concerned about the message he wants to put across and is more intrigued by the flippancy that comes by default to all his characters. Because, the real answers are not as monochromatic and simple as proposed by Hirani and Joshi, rather they are kaleidoscopic in nature. This is where Hirani’s world clashes with the real world. In his previous two movies, his was a world of ‘convenience reality’ where he kept things ‘real’ at one plane and hyperventilated to another at will taking every liberty under the roof and often achieving the desired result with glee. Because, for all we cared, we had not come across a Munnabhai anywhere and therefore we embraced his vision of world unquestioningly. But, the world depicted in the movie exists and we have been a part of it, and hence Hirani’s toggling his versions of reality does tend to affect the movie a bit.
Also, there is absolutely no connect between the characters of Aamir and Kareena. Barely three scenes they have met and the fourth one breaks into a imagined romantic duet. There is no noticeable arc in the feelings and hence, the whole romantic track between the two leads looks forced.
Where Hirani fails with this movie is the lack of conflict between the existing world and the world his main characters believe in. When the characters wants to chase excellence and not success, there is hardly any mention of what happens when you throw caution to the wind and do what you think is right. What happens when one’s idealist self steps into a dog-eat-dog world. How is one tempted to succumb when one’s ideals are questioned at each and every moment? The nerds are always shown as someone devoid of intelligence but only gifted with superb memorizing power. Is it really the case? Are they the typical drones they are made out to be? Really? Besides, it must not be noted that nerds are someone who have seen this system from close and know how to live harmoniously with it. How sinful is it to make peace with a system which you can do nothing about other than scraping out of it? But, these are serious questions that require deep contemplation; rather, here the protagonist’s problem gets solved by a freak accident. Although it can be argued that Hirani’s main intention is to propose a solution rather than contest the ‘what ifs’ of situations. Even then, the subject here is complex and required more attention than what Hirani chooses to lend it. The movie is also yawningly formulaic at places and laced with myriad filmy moments. Yes, not the magical uniquely cinematic ‘filmy’ moments but rather cringe worthy predictable scenes that have a hangover of ‘been there, done that’.
What is to Hirani’s credit is he keeps the thread of comedy throughout the movie and it is this flavor that Hirani is most comfortable with. He is most comfortable at creating something which is a derivative of his soaring imagination, and clearly not comfortable at creating (or, rather recreating?) a prototype of the world that already exists. Creating funny situations out of nowhere is Hirani’s groove. He makes the journey tolerable by creating many light moments. You tend to laugh at the situation, even though disagreeing with the way he handles the ‘message’. But, it must be admitted that he is an important filmmaker just because of the way he has handled all his three subjects so far. His style is often at times endearing and takes unique potshots at conventions; however, he is most comfortable when he does not have to think about hammering a ‘message’ to the audience. Because, Munnabhai despite being insanely funny showed what ‘parental pressure/expectations’ can force one to be. Here, the thread of laughter is strong and glowing, but sadly is the movie’s only saving grace because for most part it is absolutely clueless what to do with its soul.