3 Idiots (2009)

Five Lives and a Funeral

The structure is a compelling nesting. We have the linear story of two school chums plus one who search for a lost third buddy. There are a number of twists in this that make it more than just a framing device. We get a lot of storytelling craft in how the outer, later story is driven by the inner one.

That inner one consists of a collection of hijinks unified under a charismatic fellow who inexplicably has wisdom and agile response. There is a bad guy. I am not the target demographic but can easily see him representing a frustrating limit on Indian innovation. While I am not in the national society, I am in the discipline and find it nearly impossible to find top thinkers who are educated in the Indian system. So the Director is more than a character here, and the hero is more than a clever imp. This will have tapped deep national narratives.

There are Bollywood songs that denote the falling in love, the camaraderie, and the underlying philosophy that triumph so many times in this story that we lose much of the surprise in the ending reveal. These production numbers and the way they are inserted are not first nature for me, so they actually have more effect than they would have for a target audience. Fortunately, they grow into this role.

The difficulty for me is the love story. We have to have one of course. It has to follow the standard template of the woman being repelled, being in love, being separated by some dynamic outside their (in this case her) control and being happily reunited. The treatment of this is limited by censors and what I consider third world norms. But it is facile in comparison to the male-male bonding. We spend almost three hours following the three buddies through profoundly deep life-altering events. Yet the romantic relationship that in the real world must be deeper is basically from another movie, a cartoon of three encounters.

Posted in 2023

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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