December 28, 2009

3 Idiots review

3 Idiots arguably is a a good film but terming it as best of 2009, is laughable..

The film has decent humor and the characters are lively (perfect casting except Aamir looking old at some places).. Amalgamating Senti with humor is Hirani's forte and he had lived to it.. Raju Hirani does not so much make movies in the traditional way as much as he choreographs scripts. A stray Manmohan Desai gene has perhaps founds its way into Hirani’s bloodstream as the latter once again delivers a film for the ages and one where he surpasses the strengths of the deservedly enshrined Munnabhai films. The director is the rare talent who seems to be schooled in Desai’s improbable art of narrative velocity married to quasi-operatic mini-climaxes that in turn do not sacrifice the tale’s cumulative logic and this mix essentially existing in a comic framework. Aamir Khan meanwhile defeats all cliche once more and yet again emerges in a film that bears witness to his uncanny career re-invention this decade. That these two talents with unquestionable integrity in each case got together for this film is perhaps fortuitous.

There is no better satire than 3 Idiots of the calculative logic that is our common lot today, nor any of the obsession with planning, order and the pre-programmed that is the bourgeois world. Hirani’s film is a generational critique but it is much more a questioning of certain structures that inhibit the ’singular’ and any attempt at true self-recognition. It is a vastly funny polemic against a social framework that seeks to stifle true innovation in service of the stale and moribund. Hirani seems to argue for the spontaneity and passion of the artist or the inventor over the curse and blight of reducing life to a game of ranks and numbers where ‘living’ ultimately becomes fossilized and a victim of ‘machine logic’. In one of the film’s central epiphanies a moment of literal birth is twinned with a flash of scientific inspiration. The latter enables the former. It is only the creative insight or the lucid thought that might engender the ‘new’. Hirani’s ethical stakes could not be clearer. In some ways this project was apparent even in the Munnabhai films but finds bolder expression here.

But this tale of cinema superbly troped for example in the entire series of segments that form Raju Rastogi’s background and then in the Zoobi Zoobi video are also about an ‘older’ less seductive India still nestled in the newer aspirational economies. Hirani is not averse to presenting heart-warming stories of redemption but he performs an enormously valuable service in all of his films by never letting his viewers forget that the Dil Chahta Hai India or the Kuch Kuch Hota Hai one isn’t all there is. Raju Rastogi’s “50s” family setup is very much the forgotten past that keeps tapping on the conscience of the present. Not yet past, not wholly acknowledged as present.

While comedy often blunts the edge of sharp critique and certainly makes it more palatable 3 Idiots unlike the Munnabhai films largely avoids this danger. At no point in the film is the critique ever forgotten or rendered ‘wholesome’. Within this very fluid and briskly paced work with really no rough edges the social critique often sounds a slightly discordant note which is entirely to the credit of the film. It is exactly Hirani’s intention to make his film about this discordance. But this is also a very moving movie at very many points in a very bitter-sweet sort of way. Even as it celebrates life’s little miracles it never eschews that which entails permanent loss.

The final portion of the film is rather crucial for the tensions and paradoxes of this world can only be brought together in a tranquil, other-worldly, even somewhat visionary natural setting where screen space is freer and innovation is less imprisoned within hegemony, where identity is less splintered by the stresses of the social or the temptations of self-invention. Where perhaps the life well-imagined finally meets the life well-lived..

The performances in 3 Idiots are excellent all round either because these are well-acted parts or brilliantly well-cast ones. There is often a tendency to denigrate ’sincerity’ in the actor’s repertoire, to use this term as a half way house between a merely competent performance and an accomplished ‘greater’ one. This is to underestimate the extent to which many parts in cinema are not calibrated to engender fine performances but which would also collapse without the admixture of the proper doze of ’sincerity’. Aamir’s performance belongs to this latter register. He exhibits this quality in abundance and it is perfectly keyed to his character’s brief and the rhythms of the film. One might even argue with little hyperbole that this is possibly his most endearing performance ever. On the other hand Madhavan is the ‘fine actor’ of this film. He too is not required to draw into a thespian’s reserves but his greater resources as an actor allow him to exhibit just those almost imperceptibly subtle touches at various points. Sharman Joshi meanwhile is a master of comic timing and even if he operates in a much more predictable vein he is by no means less effective. The trio here has fantastic chemistry and the bond shared by the three keeps striking a chord with the viewer throughout the course of the film. Then there are the chief stereotypes of the film including Boman Irani’s character and of course ‘Chatur’. The latter is extraordinarily perverse and equally unforgettable, a near scene stealer in every scene he occupies and a bit reminiscent of the Malayalam stalwart Srinivasan while the former though less fresh and even jarring at points is nonetheless very necessary for this work’s functioning. The rest of the cast is passable with Kareena in fairness adding female charisma to the mix.

How one wishes Rahman had been used in the film. Moitra’s music works wonderfully with the film but it is not a patch on the work’s other myriad strengths. Hirani however uses the score well. Zoobi zoobi offers cheeky homage and zany antics in a blend where the director is at his most imaginative. This is easily the single best music video Hirani has ever directed. Aal izz well meanwhile captures a certain frenzy and spirit of the dorm ethos and is really the perfect video for that song. The rest are more situational bakcground tracks though hardly used less effectively.

The cinematography of 3 Idiots is also the best of Hirani’s career so far. He has always remained somewhat unobtrusive in this regard and a bit underrated for this reason (including at one point by this author). He certainly isn’t a pop-auteur in any sense but his sensibility seems most attuned to the demands, grammar and history of Hindi commercial cinema. His work is very ‘homegrown’ in this regard without appearing unsophisticated. 3 Idiots offers the director the opportunity to really do everything in a sense. From extreme angle vertiginous shots to tracks and pans, from campus framings that use the architecture marvelously to carve up or define screen space to the sublime vistas of Ladakh that have been most gorgeously photographed this side of Mani Rathnam, from astonishingly kinetic sequences that play with constant character movement as well as rapid editing rhythms to more innovative strategies that trope cinematic history both literally and figuratively, this film is visually delightful and it also displays in an odd sense the director’s own joy in digging deep into his bag of tricks. Hirani’s visual choices with the participation of C K Muraleedharan are precisely what this subject needed. One would not want more in the direction of the artistic. The tapestry created here is most ‘felicitous’.

Raju Hirani and even moreso Aamir Khan have capped off this (and their) extraordinary decade with not just an instant classic in an authentic sense but also one of the period’s truly singular films. The former becomes in many ways the topmost name among commercial directors while the latter cements his centrality to the decade more than any of his peers with a genuine exclamation point. One does not know what the two have in store going forward but one can be certain that the embarrassment of riches both have represented through the beginning of this new millennium have hardly been expended. One wishes them much luck going forward even if they would not seem to need it very much. 3 Idiots is ultimately an exhilarating experience of the kind Hindi cinema rarely affords one anymore. It is not just the film of the year, it rubs shoulders with the best of the decade, it is a classic for all times and moods.

The all India territorial breakdown is as follows. Apart from Bihar, Assam and Orissa all circuits have recorded new records for first Friday.

Mumbai - 4.75 crore approx

Delhi/UP- 2.50 crore approx

East Punjab - 1,10,63,110

West Bengal - 80 lakhs

Bihar - 15 lakhs approx

CP Berar - 52 lakhs

CI - 47,89,000

Rajasthan -68 lakhs

Nizam -70 lakhs approx

Mysore - 60 lakhs approx

Tamil Nadu/Kerala - 35 lakhs approx

Assam - 8 lakhs

Orissa - 7 lakhs

TOTAL - 12.79 crore approx

1 comment:

Brindha said...

nice review, im eager to watch it now :D ... if not '3 Idiots', what bollywood movie would you say is the best of 2009?