The new movie 3 Idiots (2009), directed by Rajkumar Hirani, produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra and based on an extremely lame-ass novel by wannabe wordsmith Chetan Bhagat, is a monster hit. Yours truly watched the flick on the second first day of release, popcorn in hand.
Now if you knew me, that’s crazy as hell. Because I haven’t watched a Bollywood film in a theatre for, like, fucking ages. More on that later.
As expected, the movie has all of the director’s now-trademark flourishes i.e. sharp characterisations, snappy dialogue, zero profanity, less screen time for female leads, lots of male bonding, pan-India pathos (which in this case is quite a feat considering the movie predominantly takes place within an elite city college in Delhi) and, sure enough, a central catch phrase (remember ‘Jadoo Ki Jhappi’ and ‘Gandhigiri’ from his earlier efforts?) which now takes the rather distinctly un-Hindi form of ‘All Is Well’.
Of course, all this may sound like I don’t like the film. But you know what? It fucking works. And it works really well.
The last few years have seen some of the worst-ever products churned out by the Bollywood film factory. Blame Karan Johar, Yash Chopra and son, Akshay Kumar’s merry band of directors (too many to name) and the once-promising/now-embarrassing Ram Gopal Varma. But with movies like Munnabhai MBBS (2003) and its sequel Lage Raho Munnabhai (2006), Rajkumar Hirani and his producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra have taken the very same spare parts and re-reassembled the Bollywood dream machine. They make unapologetically mass-market Bollywood movies that are fun, frothy – and surprisingly smart.
If you prefer meaningful cinema, stick with the Europeans, Chinese and (more recently) the Koreans. But if Bollywood is what rocks your world, keep your eyes on Hirani – the man sure knows his masala.
P.S. Watch out (or better, don’t) for remakes of ‘3 Idiots’ in almost all regional languages.