3 Idiots (Rajkumar Hirani, 2009) is a film featuring three best friends and their lives in one of the best colleges in India, the Imperial College of Engineering. Ten years after their graduation, Farhan and Raju seek to reunite with their long lost friend, Rancho. En route to locate him, they revisit their college days as engineering students while recollecting the memories of their unconventional friend who inspired them to think differently.
As the highest-grossing Bollywood film, 3 idiots captured its audience with a strong aesthetic typically found in Indian cinema. From there, I would like to discuss about the aesthetic of Indian cinema in terms of the emotional content, themes as well as film dance, music and song.
When discuss about Indian cinema, Indian art is something that must not be overlooked. Indian art stresses on inducing philosophical states toward the audience which eventually evolved to become the Indian aesthetics. Relating to Indian drama and literature, the term ‘bhAva’ (emotion and devotional state of mind) and ‘rasa’ (juice or essence) are commonly refer to the emotional flavours or essences crafted into the work by the writer and greatly enjoyed by a ‘sensitive spectator’ or sahṛdaya (one with positive taste and mind). (“Indian Aesthetics,” n.d., p. 5) Both bhAva and rasa work collaboratively to bring out the best of the work. In addition, the emotional content in the Indian arts is similar to that of a banquet or feast in which there is one overall flavour, whither varieties of feelings and emotions were also included to provide the essential variety and texture. (Booth, 1995, p. 175) The Indian art mentioned was employed successfully by 3 Idiots as the film depicts a variety of significant scenes, from the inspiring scene of Rancho giving encouraging words ‘Aal izz well’ to Raju, to the heartening scene of singing and dancing in the bathroom as well as fixing Joy Lobo’s final project, a wireless camera atop a helicopter, and finally to the heartbroken scene whereby Joy is found hanged in his bedroom with his last words ‘I QUIT’ written on the wall. Concisely, the film had served the audience a fine feast overflowed with diversified flavours.
In terms of theme, Indian films can be categorized into five general categories including the mythological stories such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Puranas (oral folklore), family melodramas, ‘costume dramas’ which based on historical themes, Indian equivalents of Westerns or spy films, and last but not least, the ‘social’ films centring on contemporary public issue with melodrama traits. (Manuel, 1988, p. 159) Being a social film, 3 idiots illustrates the issues of the Indian Education System, whereby students are taught from the books, with scarcely any practical knowledge. From birth, Farhan indicates that they were taught ‘Life is a race, run fast or you’ll be trampled.’ As a result, students are not thrilled to learn something new, instead they gone into a race only to get more pressure, not knowledge. In contrast to Rancho, the innovator and unorthodox student, Chatur crammed to score in exam. The outcome of rote learning proved to be useless with the scene of Chatur mindlessly cramming the speech for Teacher’s Day and did not even realized that the script was altered by Rancho and that made him became a joke.
The act of viewing Bollywood film dance is often pleasurable and can also be performative as Bollywood song and dance is a central node of pleasure. (R. David, 2010) According to Goswami, the film or songs are ‘free-floating signifiers’ because of their whimsy gestures to the behind-the-scenes aspect of the film: the dreams still possible in everyday life. (Goswami, 2009) For most Indian spectators, the effect of film music is natural and it is viewed as a continuation of the traditions of the folk theatre forms, where speech, song, and dance are merged into a unified dramatic style. The songs also conveniently express unarticulated sentiments; a song sequence may compress the depiction of 'falling in love' into four or five minutes. (Manuel, 1988, p. 160-161) Such depiction can be seen when Pia fallen in love with Rancho, a song sequence is inserted to visualize her love by showing how she sees him everywhere such as in the album and television, and also she imagining herself dancing with him in the rain.
In summary, the issues of education system highlighted in the film reflected the society not just in India, but also various parts of the globe. As such, we should not cram blindly in studies. Without doubt, 3 idiots is a very inspiring, humorous and also heart-warming film. I would definitely recommend it to everyone who enjoys great story.
Indian Aesthetics. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://eiilmuniversity.ac.in/coursepack/humanities/INDIAN_AESTHETICS.pdf
D. Booth, G. (1995). Traditional Content and Narrative Structure in the Hindi Commercial Cinema. In Asian Folklore Studies (Vol. 54, pp. 169-190). Nanzan University.
Manuel, P. (1988). Popular Music in India: 1901-86. In Popular Music (Vol. 7, pp. 157-176). Cambridge University Press.
R. David, A. (2010, November). Dancing the diasporic dream? Embodied desires and the changing audiences for Bollywood film dance.
Goswami, N. (2009). The Empire Sings Back: Aesthetics, Politics, and Postcolonial Whimsy. Retrieved from http://quod.lib.umich.edu/c/ca/7523862.spec.213?view=text;rgn=main