You know you've got your ticket's worth when you find yourself not minding middle-aged men playing 19-somethings. And when you can't think of many others who'd do it just as well.
Getting expectations right from 3 Idiots mostly consists of a once-over of the names associated with the project. It is a Rajkumar Hirani film - walk past the threshold of wit and humour, and it is a film laden with comfortingly moralistic stances. It was adapted from a Chetan Bhagat best seller - it has a filmi ending. And, it stars Bollywood's resident self-confessed perfectionist-marketeer, Aamir Khan - it has a hero who you'd want to desperately be like, and yet be miserable that you're not.
Borrowing its essence from Five Point Someone, the story opens with college chums Farhan (Madhavan) and Raju Rastogi (Sharman Joshi) falling over each other to meet a certain long-lost friend Rancho. Presumably, Rancho has not been in touch with them for donkey's years, and has resurfaced now according to their classmate Chatur (Omi).
It turns out that when in engineering, Chatur, in response to a humiliating incident, had challenged Rancho (Aamir Khan) to meet on campus after a decade to prove which of the two would prove to be more successful. Rancho, however, hasn't turned up now, and the friends embark on a journey to find out where he reportedly lives right now - a journey that has a twist or two waiting to shock them.
Farhan, meanwhile, takes us through the flashback of how the trio - Farhan, Rancho and Rastogi - met in hostel and went on to share a room, and life. Running their institution, the Imperial College Of Engineering, is a draconian principal Viru Sahasrabuddhe (Boman Irani), whose daughter Pia, (Kareena Kapoor), Rancho eventually romances.
Then come the stereotypes. Farhan is a photography-lover whose engineering education is part of the fruition of his ambitious father's dream. Rastogi's family scrounges through his father's illness just so he can get a decent education. And there are a few others like them. Sahasrabuddhe is the kind of professor who tells his students that it's never mattered in history who No. 2 is.
Quite the perfect setting for one of Rajkumar Hirani's pet peeves - suicide. Rancho is a cheerful, optimistic whiz kid who is impossibly indifferent to success or failure, and while letting him tower around what is technically a world of lesser mortals, Hirani puts forth his counsel on the issue, vehemently terming it murder.
In several other ways as well, the film is designed to get nods of familiarity from reformist teachers and parents indignant at the education system. There are sermons on the chasteness of a thirst for knowledge, the virtues of engineering creativity, and the joy of learning with no strings attached. Remember, this was the team that made a goon a fully-qualified doctor
. And single-handedly took the social stigma out of Gandhigiri
The jokes are situational as well as plot-driven, and some of them will be familiar to avid followers of e-mail forwards. Campus insights are perched amidst light-hearted banter, and though no one on the set is a teenager, there's enough to scrape up an evening's worth of memories for those who've partaken of hostel life.
The film is not without its cheesiness, though - the childbirth scene was quite unsettling, the "balatkar" speech was drawn out, the one standing joke throughout the film is on Chatur's incessant farting, and, on a really serious note, the peeing prank should have come with a statutory warning.
Aamir quite dominates the movie, but surprisingly, he overdoes his part. He passes off as college-going better than most other actors his age do, but aspects of the character like exaggerated teenagish expressions and an over-bouncy gait give away the fact that he's actually making an effort.
However, it's nothing that takes away the fact that people will queue up to watch the brilliant actor, especially when it's been this long
Boman Irani's the other person for whom this film will really work. He's doing a lot of what he's done in Munnabhai MBBS, but he's an indispensable part of the whole bargain, and he dazzles.
Sharman Joshi has powerful - read, those that need him to weep - scenes, and handles them really well. Madhavan is essentially background furniture, even though he gets to narrate the story, but you're glad to have him around anyway. Omi, the guy who plays the bookish Chatur, is sufficiently comic-bookish, with his over-the-top nerdiness. Which leaves us with Kareena - a heroine sidelined unfairly. Her scenes do have meat, both comic and dramatic, though.
The music alternates between peppy and lilting, and the songs are well-choreographed, well-shot, the works. As for the visuals, it's a bubbly film all through. The college scenes were reportedly shot in IIM Bangalore. As for the present, there are picturesque shots of the northern mountains - or whatever they passed off as Shimla and Ladakh.
In all, 3 Idiots lets you loosen up enough to make you stop believing everything they say about the world being a bad place. All izz well, indeed.