Must see: 3 Idiots

I don’t know a lot of Indian films. I’ve seen some in parts but never in their entirety. I don’t know too many titles, I know even less artists and then there’s the language and culture barrier. In fact, until last night, the only Indian-themed film I remember seeing was Slumdog Millionaire which is not even a Bollywood film but a British production.

Then, Sam said I should see 3 Idiots. I had this mental image of the three blind men and the elephant. In true stereotype fashion, I presumed that everyone in the film would be wearing traditional Indian garb, the scenes would show a densely populated city and slums, and the story would revolve around cultural issues that we who have been westernized are so quick to pass judgment upon and condemn.

How happy I was to be proved wrong. The theme of 3 Idiots is universal; the film genre defies Western definitions and categorizations. To put it bluntly, 3 Idiots rocked my world and made me reassess what, for me, a good film is all about. It is modern and traditional, it is funny and sentimental, it is a love story, it is a musical and it is a social commentary. The visuals are magnificent. I’ve seen a lot of films shot in India but never until 3 Idiots have I gotten a glimpse of how beautiful India is. No Taj Mahal, no temples, no congested streets and markets teeming with spice stalls. Instead, wide expanse of greenery, pristine desert sand, endless mountain roads and a very modern Imperial College of Engineering.

What is 3 Idiots about? It is a biting commentary told in a light-hearted way on an education system that prioritizes grades over learning. It is the story of three engineering students who had different reasons for being in school. There’s Farhan who wanted to be a wildlife photographer but went to engineering college instead because, from birth, his father had decided that an engineer was what he would be. There’s Raju who had the passion for engineering as profession but who kept getting low grades because of pressure from his family that expected him to succeed to become the breadwinner.

And then there’s Rancho, the irreverent but charming genius and provocateur who defied the rules, challenged the system, humbled his teachers, never afraid of the usual punishments for academic transgressions. When Rancho delivered a line about turning one’s passion into one’s profession, I remarked to Speedy that I could have written the script myself.

The film is almost three hours long but I hardly felt the minutes as they passed. The pace was tight, the dialogues were witty and memorable (well, at least, from the English subtitles), the characters and the plot were engrossing. A beautiful film that once again proves that a multi-million budget and a panoply of computer-generated visuals are not always necessary to deliver fantastic results. If, like me, you know very little about Indian films and Bollywood, 3 Idiots is a good introduction. Watch it with an open mind and heart, and fall in love with Indian cinema.


  1. says

    My sister watched it as a school requirement and she loved it and told me to see it too. Your post reminded me that I should really watch it :)

  2. Chi says

    I love this film. I was, like you, quite surprised to realize that Indian films could be really good. The requisite song and dance number didn’t seem out of place and even added charm to the film. he he he.

    And even if it was quite long, the story kept my interest all throughout. Highly recommended. :-)

  3. Beatrize says

    Like you I was skeptical at first, but my husband swore that his friends all loved the movie and that they couldn’t stop laughing from beginning to end. Came in highly recommended, so he played it at home and gosh, after 5 minutes, we were all hooked! Yes, you are right, the theme is universal.

  4. Julia :) says

    I love this film too! :) Amusing and informative. It never occurred to me India has hidden wealth of amazing scenery 😀

  5. Gihan says

    Everyone please watch ” Rab ne bana di jodi “….Extraordinary story line…Definitely you’ll like it…

  6. gracegab says

    i was so impressed with the movie (3 idiots) that i recommend it to almost everyone i know. every scene is astonishing, as it entertains and sends a deep message at the same time. a must see for everyone.

    other foreign films i recommend too is the japanese film “departures” and korea’s “going by the book”

  7. Pinkytab says

    Another must see Indian film is “A Wednesday”. I am sure this is a low budget film because there are only a few places where they filmed but very well done. It is a real thriller!

  8. kit macapagal says

    my youngest son has been bugging me to watch this movie for more than six months now. Got to give it a try tonight.

  9. Ann says

    Every time I feel bad or sad I would tell myself “All is well” . The movie always remind me that no matter how difficult the situation is , you will still be able to make it by being clam and positive.
    Because of this I started researching about the actors , the director and the producer of this film. Then , I discovered Aamir Khan and some of his great movies. One of my Indian friend always discourage me to watch Bollywood films because it’s always a copycat of Hollywood films as he always say. I like how they integrate dancing and singing to their films and that makes it really entertaining to watch.
    Ma’am. you should also try to find and watch the movie Special Child ( TAARE ZAMEN PAR) . It’s a dramatic movie but it’s worth watching specially for mother’s like us. :)