“3 Idiots (3I)” is a story about friendship, about friends, and what they mean to us. In that, it is similar to “Dil Chahta Hai (DCH)”. But that’s where the similarity ends. Because while "DCH" was a much loved, and delicately nuanced child of its debuting director Farhan Akhtar, “3I” is a boisterous romp through the travails of life and love and camaraderie, from a director not known for his subtlety. Thus “3I” ends up being a wannabe soulful film, with the heart of Munnabhai (gold) and the spark of Aamir (old but not jaded).
The film starts off with two idiots, Farhan Qureshi (Madhavan) and Raju Rastogi (Sharman Joshi) setting out in search of the third, Ranchhoddas Shamaldas Chanchad (Aamir Khan). As they travel, the film veers backwards and forwards into flashbacks, and we become privy to the three’s friendship in Engineering College. Of the three only Rancho wants to study to learn, Farhan yearns to be a photographer, and Raju is burdened by the fear of not meeting parental expectations. To make college life more interesting, we also have the quirky Institute Director, Professor Viru Sahastrabuddhe (Boman Irani), and his lovely daughter Pia (Kareena Kapoor). All good things however come to an end, and the friends must separate. Will they ever all be together again?
Aamir plays a college kid here, and while he’s actually 40 plus, he does manage his character quite well. As Rancho he is an avid learner, with a rambunctious air and a straightforward manner of speaking. Madhavan and Sharman also do well as his devoted side-kicks. Kareena is fabulous as bespectacled Pia, and Boman is quite the eccentric professor. The direction is adequate, the dialogues apt, and the music hummable. This is also quite a unique story, and it is told pretty well, with the flashbacks well-woven with real-time.
However, "3I" can never actually make up its mind about what it’s trying to be. A comedy with “intelligent” leanings or a thoughtful, coming-of-age film with lapses of reality? This film has both elements; it tries to weave a realistic story, but the story has some unbelievable events which take away from the film. Each film is different because of its director, and while Hirani is a talented director, and his films generally clean and classy, they tend to be a little short on character development, and concentrate more on eliciting the guffaws. This movie is no different; thus while it had the potential to be another “DCH”, it doesn’t quite get there.
This still is an entertaining film, pulling its weight because of its cast, its humor, its good-heartedness and its feel-good bonhomie. Aamir’s star-power, Kareena’s geeky-girl oomph also work in its favor. All that said, I will also say that “3I” didn’t live up to my expectations, but if you are looking for nothing more than a light Friday night entertainer, this is well worth the money.
(“3I” is a fairly clean film kidwise, but does show lots of men in their underwear. It also has a lip-lock and some diagrammatic depictions of child-birth – nothing queasy (except maybe the use of the suction?), but if you have curious children, they’ll probably have questions, so be warned).