Monday, January 04, 2010

3 Idiots - Reflecting

It was a dear friend's birthday and we were taken out to watch this movie. In many ways we were three idiots of our own kinds, but nothing like what is shown in the movie. I could describe the Gold class seats and how my couch simply refused to recline until I got off it and so on, but that is largely beside the point.
I enjoyed this movie in spite of the hype around it. I usually am doubly critical of a movie when it is hyped, but this one was good. Several characters and incidents were exaggerated for effect and there were factual inaccuracies too, but I think the message was clear: If you can live a life dedicated to your passion, then go for it.
One thing I liked about the movie was how Rancho's character was built. They didn't portray him as a know-it-all or someone who was purely rebellious. Here is a character who can prove himself in the system but chooses to do things his way. So, he is not merely projected as a school dropout who goes ahead and builds a company all by himself or someone who flunks but still goes ahead to become some superhero. He is clearly shown as someone who loves his subject so much that he can succeed in the system and then do things the way he wants to - all on the wings of his love. He also shares this conviction of his with his friends who go on to lead happy lives (or so we are made to believe).
The movie is quite light and there are several jokes and funny moments sprinkled throughout the movie. Many of those jokes are old and made to appear as if they were originally conceived by the author. Rather shabby in that sense. Boman Irani plays his character very well. For once, Kareena ceased to be a pain. I think Madhavan was good too. Chatur Ramalingam played his character well enough to evoke the distaste for him. I think the music wasn't noteworthy and not even something that I felt like humming after the movie (though one song might still pass).
The message in the movie is rather old and not necessarily original but I think it is one which is worth repeating and this movie does so in a different style.
Here starts the "boring" part. Today, a dear friend of mine sends me a link. She mentioned that it was a review against the 3 Idiots. She knows exactly the stuff that excites me and I always bite the bait to find someone intelligent enough to critique something with a strong and original tone. Given that nearly everyone was gushing over this movie, here was a chance to find someone who might impress me ("A worthy adversary!?" asked the lady to Thomas Crown). I am largely disappointed.
Ms. Ghose raises a few points but unfortunately all of it is based on the fact that she missed the point of the movie. She thinks the movie "Three Idiots encourages us to throw away our books because today we are chanting the mantra, "the-system-sucks-and teachers-are-pathetic-and-who-cares-about-grades-and-the-rat-race-is- foolish"." Well, not really. Not at all, if I may say so.
Rancho is there to learn. He likes to question. Teachers don't like students questioning them too much. I have been witness to this. Osho claims to have been witness to this. Not many people are comfortable with having their thoughts and rules and fundamentals questioned. Teachers, motivational speakers, gurus and most people up on a dais usually cannot stand such an audience. I have had so many people ask me to leave. Rarely have I asked a question in order to show off or irritate the prof, but over time, the system taught me to not bother these people and hack it out for myself or invent things. That helped me cook up stories for kids and also patent stuff (Rancho's 400 patents did make my eyebrows shoot up). Many teachers in my school and college still remember me as the boy who loved to ask (annoying) questions.
Rancho loves machines and prefers things hands on. Nevertheless, he respects theory enough to study and score well in the exams. The point is, he wouldn't have had a problem even if he came 2nd or last in the exams simply because he would have loved every minute of the semester. That is what everyone was missing out on. I think all that Rancho was saying was that people should enjoy whatever they do or take some time out to evaluate what they want from life and their priorities.
Viru Sahasrabuddhe was depicted as a demon in the form of a director, but he does receive Rancho's first question and does get back to him after Mona's delivery about the problems with using a pencil in outer space. So he was a good prof as far as the fire to learn, clarify and communicate goes. Yes, he believed that competition was all that the world had to offer. So many people believe in the same thing. Parents strongly believe in competition. Students learn the same and carry that attitude forward. Organisations are built on the need to compete and eliminate competition. So there is no point pretending that such characters (ViruS) do not exist and are figment of one's imagination. Some IITian on Ms. Ghose's article mentions the same thing "I have never seen a prof like how Viru S was depicted". Well, why didn't anyone say that about the teachers who subjected their students to capital punishment? When a child was made to lift bricks or run around the school in the sun, why don't we shun it as pure fiction and exaggeration because "We have never had such a teacher so it can't be real". Simply put, there are all kinds of teachers and professors and this movie depicted one kind.
Can this work for everyone? Well, no. There will always be people who have no passion. There will be people who simply want a job and nothing more. There will be people who want to take the fastest route to a lot of money and social status. There will always be people who are passionate about life and as a wise soul once said, those who are passionate about life cannot be single minded about only one thing. There will always be people who can do a simple job when taught how to do it and that would pretty much be it. People who clearly are passionate about something constitute a meagre 1-5% of the human population. So is this movie made for only these people? I would think not. It is made to encourage people to pause long enough to ponder over what they really like to do, and if they find nothing then they could always pick a line of work which a needs large amount of labour force (like the software industry). Currently, people don't do that and that is a concern. If more people were encouraged to pause and ponder, there is a higher likelihood that people will align more with their area of interest/passion.
Being in the software industry, I am surrounded by people who have come from all walks of life and are here mostly for the money and often for the opportunity to go abroad and get a better lifestyle. Very few people are here because they like to hack and develop software. I am sure every field has such examples. Bankers and teachers are rarely there because they love it. They simply wish to eke out a living. Nothing wrong with that but there might be opportunities to obtain a similar earning by doing something that they like. One teacher likes to cook, a banker loves painting, another loves collecting old movie songs and so on. Had they received sound guidance, then they could have juggled with setting up cooking classes (which can earn a lot) or provide catering services (which earns a lot more) and create paintings and setup shows and perhaps sell a good number of them and setup a radio show which plays old songs and people get to request for songs. Can they earn as much? Perhaps not. Perhaps they can be secondary career options. Perhaps we need to pause long enough to think.
Rancho doesn't recommend that we kill the system. He suggests giving it a relook. He doesn't suggest we dumb down knowledge, but recognise what is relevant and what can be smoothened out to be more accessible. Rancho doesn't say that all teachers are bad but they need to revisit their teaching methodology. He doesn't say that engineering colleges are a waste, he says that they need to produce something vital and not a bunch of people who just want to use it as a stepping stone to higher paying jobs (even in unrelated sectors). Rancho doesn't simply point a finger at the education system but actually goes ahead and sets up a school based on what he believes. He doesn't say forget about grades but he says put your soul into it and enjoy the subject and success will follow on its own.
Too philosophical? Perhaps, but if it can wake up a few, then why not. Human beings being what they are, are quite likely to interpret according to their convenience, but that doesn't mean that the movie is wrong or, as Ms. Ghose says, dangerous because it will create a nation of idiots. We are as much a nation of murderers and gangsters and voyeurs and Casanovas and silly fellows running through fields in Punjab because we watched movies depicting these things. I think we can live with it. If we anyway do not have the sense to think for ourselves, we can be a nation of idiots or Indians. Big difference!

3 Idiots

Friday, January 01, 2010


I am trying out new templates and colour schemes because I heard many folks complain about the red and black scheme that I had earlier (the only reason I preferred that was that it was entirely constructed by hand by me). But when a friend (who states that she is my "number one fan") recently mentioned that she finds this an eye-sore, I decided to visit options.
Experimenting over a dial-up is impossibly difficult and slow and dependent on weird things, like no incoming calls on the telephone line. Hence, this blog will be in various states of undress and I count on you not to laugh (too loud, at least). Btw, I would love to hear if you like this current scheme as it stands. I really liked the quick snippet view and the clean layout and organisation. But it doesn't seem to reflect much of the blog's personality (don't ask me what that is). So if you could comment and tell me which state of the blog you liked and so on, perhaps I could use you to blame my decision! :-D
Wishing everyone a wonderful new year ahead.