February issue 2010
The Meaning of Education
Every movie Aamir Khan is involved in, be it as a director or an actor, almost always challenges the norm. His latest movie, 3 Idiots, directed by Rajkumar Hirani, is no exception.
Three students, Farhan (R. Madhavan), Raju (Sharman Joshi) and Rancho (Aamir Khan), study at a university that is run by a dictatorial principal (Boman Irani), who does not encourage outside-the-box thinking. Rote learning is also demanded by the teachers at the institution — what is most important is meeting deadlines and regurgitating what is in the textbooks, as opposed to creativity and real learning.
But Rancho is not there to give in to the system. At every step of the way he challenges this method of learning with common sense and sound reason. Unlike the other meek mice, Racho questions standard practices, and though valid, his questions are almost always answered by his being turned out of class. Considered the class clown by his classmates and a troublemaker by the faculty, Farhan is amused by Rancho’s antics and in a way looks up to him, while Raju is always wary, fearing getting into trouble.
The movie keeps one engaged and in fits of laughter throughout, which is only to be expected as it comes from the makers of Munna Bhai, MBBS. Rancho’s ingenious substitution of the word “chamatkar” (miracle) with “balatkar” (rape) in a speech delivered by the principal’s pet, in honour of the principal and the chief guest, is particularly hilarious.
The quirky dialogues and quick wit keep one entertained, but the movie also provokes thought. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is the suicide of a final year student, Joy Lobo (Ali Fazal). Failing to meet his thesis deadline due to his father’s illness, his excuses are dismissed by the principal and he is told he will not be graduating in the coming term. Rancho discovers Lobo’s project dumped in the trash can and decides to surprise him by completing it. A remote-controlled helicopter with a webcam fixed onto it, Rancho is able to lift it off the ground, and, as it rises in the air and makes its way to Lobo’s room, with a crowd of students gathered to watch the look on the creator’s face to see his invention operational, what they see is Lobo’s body hanging from the ceiling fan. The death is murder, not suicide, Rancho tells the principal.
While Farhan’s aspirations of becoming a wildlife photographer are crushed to meet his father’s notions of success — which involve only money and status — Raju is expected to shoulder the responsibility of an unmarried sister’s dowry and keep food on the table once he graduates from engineering college with flying colours and secures a good job. Rancho is the rebel leader, the one who does things not for the sake of monetary advancement but out of a genuine desire to learn and excel at what he loves. 3 Idiots is the story of the struggle of young men to come to terms with themselves, to make their mark in the world and redefine conventional standards of success.
The movie may be idealistic and in parts exaggerated — like when the three boys are able to help deliver a baby using the head of a vacuum cleaner to suck the baby out — but it is nonetheless inspirational and highlights the need for reform in the education sector and society too, especially parenting.
While Aamir Khan’s performance as Rancho most obviously stands out — and yes, he can still pass as a college student — performances by all the other actors are no less commendable, even that of Kareena Kapoor, who has a small role in the movie as Rancho’s love interest and the rebel daughter of the principal.
Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based journalist and teacher. She joined Newsline in 2007, rising to assistant editor. Farieha was awarded the APNS award for Best Investigative Report (Business/Economic) for the year 2007-2008. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum of Digital Rights.