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3 Idiots

3 Idiots

Review by Cassam Looch

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

ONE of the most anticipated Bollywood films of the year finally gets released and given that it stars one of the biggest names in the business, it’s one we had to get a look at.

Two friends (Madhavan and Sharman Joshi) embark on a quest for a lost buddy. En route, they encounter a long forgotten bet, a wedding they must crash and a funeral that goes impossibly out of control.

As they make their way through the perilous landscape, another journey begins: their inner journey through memory lane and the story of their friend – the irrepressible free thinker Rancho (Aamir Khan), who in his own unique way, touched and changed their lives.

It’s a story of their hostel days that swings between Rancho’s romance with the spirited Pia (Kareena Kapoor), and his clash with an oppressive mentor, Viru Sahastrabudhhe (Boman Irani). And then one day, suddenly, Rancho vanishes….

At the core of this story is a three-way ‘bro-mance’ which is very much the flavour of the month in Hollywood. Once you get used to the idea that Aamir Khan will be playing a teenage university student (even though he is in his mid-40s!), then you can easily get swept up in the drama.

Actually, he and the rest of the cast do a great job in conveying the ‘frat’ style humour we have seen before but with a very Indian twist on proceedings.

Things veer from laugh out loud funny to tear-jerking melodrama as the fun is contrasted with the pressures placed on the students by society and family. There are some very clever moments, such as when we are shown Joshi’s family home which is so poverty-stricken that it literally becomes a collection of black and white hindi movie clichés… right down to the paralyzed old man in the living room.

The three main characters really do work well together and you instantly get the sense of friendship being forged between them. Even their ‘rival’ is given ample screen time to become more than a throwaway comedy cutout.

Another great plus point is Boman Irani, who does wonders with his strict university Dean, which again goes beyond lazy caricatures to become a well-rounded addition to the plot.

The framing of travelling back and forth from the early days to the desperate search for Rancho does lose its way in a myriad of continuity errors but the performances always make it clear where you are in the grand scheme of things.

A sub-plot involving Rancho and Pia also convinces, going from teenage infatuation to something more meaningful… even if the characters have been apart for so long.

There’s a very neat twist in the middle of the film which allows for a change in gear and the inevitable descent into melodrama from light comedy is well handled to the extent that it can catch you off guard.

The very real issues raised in the film are not sugar-coated at all… the solutions might not be clear but this is a very believable depiction of the pressures placed on young students and the catastrophic repercussions these can have.

That’s not to say this is all doom and gloom… far from it. 3 Idiots is one of those modern Bollywood films that is self-aware without trying to alienate its loyal fanbase.

There are still impromptu song and dance numbers but these are well choreographed and play a part in the narrative instead of the conventional duty they would have of breaking up the action for exotic location shoots.

A surprisingly charming and stimulating Bollywood film… 3 Idiots is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.

Certificate: 12A
UK DVD Release: February 21, 2011