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Laramie Movie Scope:
3 Idiots

Bollywood drama of students recalling their inspirational fellow

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(2009, Hindi and English) Upon receiving word that his dearest friend from college will be returning after long absence, Farhan Qureshi (R. Madhavan) fakes a medical emergency to abort a commercial-airlines flight and then calls Raju Rastoghi (Sharman Joshi), who gets so excited that he leaves his house and gets into a taxi with Farhan without his pants. But when the pair arrive at the spot on campus where a decade earlier a wager had been made on September 5th as to who would be more successful in life, initiated by Chatur Ramalingam (Omi Vaidya) - who had phoned Farhan on the aircraft and greets them: "Welcome, idiots" - their buddy isn't there.

"Where's Rancho?" Chatur boasts: "Come and see where I've reached and where he rots." Bragging of his impending big business deal with Phunsukh Wangdu, Chatur with Farhan and Raju (whom they'd nickname "Silencer" in college for his silent but foul-fuming farts) drive through lush green scenery up into the mountains toward Shimla in northern India, accompanied by the musical score of director Rajkumar Hirani's 2¾-hour Bollywood (catchy tunes and dance performances) dramedy, loosely adapted from Chetan Bhagat's novel Five Point Someone in a screenplay co-written by Hirani and Abhijit Joshi.

At the Imperial College of Engineering (ICE), these three had been freshman engineering students at the same time with Ranchhoddas Shamaldas Chanchad (Aamir Khan), who challenged conventions at every stage. On the first day, Rancho evaded the traditional act of initiating freshmen in their underwear, paying homage to the seniors, by a clever method of electrocution.

Offering his friends an obverse role model to that of the dean of engineering, Viru Sahastrabudhhe (Boman Irani), whom they call "Virus," in his incessant efforts of striving for greater efficiency - "Compete or die," he exhorts the students, for life is a race in which one must be swift or be trampled - Rancho tells them to "follow your heart." Only the top 200 students will qualify for an engineering degree by passing the ICE exam.

When the Virus shows off his specially constructed anti-gravity space pen made for astronauts, Rancho points out that a pencil would have served just as well. After the machine-course professor dismisses Rancho as an idiot from the class for his insolence in preferring a simpler definition of a machine to the technical textbook example of Chatur's memorization, the renegade returns. "Why are you back?" demands the professor. "Sir, I forgot to take something," answers Rancho. "What?"

Rancho elucidates: "Instruments that record, analyze, summarize, organize, debate, and explain information; that are illustrated, non-illustrated, hardbound, paperback, jacketed, non-jacketed; with foreword, introduction, table of contents, index; that are intended for the enlightenment, understanding, enrichment, enhancement and education of the human brain through sensory route of vision - sometimes touch." The confused professor replies: "What are you trying to say?" Rancho answers: "Books, sir! I forgot to take my books."

When the mental pressure begins taking its toll, Rancho advises a repetition of his mantra of "Aal izz well" (All is well). Too late for Joy Lobo, who has failed the ICE thrice, when the Virus refuses to grant an extension to complete his drone project: "I quit." In a session of being reprimanded by the Virus, Rancho notes that India has the highest rate of suicide in the world - "I blame the system" - because of the pressure cooker environment, the frantic race to get the best scores at the expense of curiosity and creativity in the genuine pursuit of knowledge.

("According to a recent World Health Organization report, India has the highest suicide rate in the world for the 15-to-29 age group," Mallika Kapur and Jethro Mullen noted for CNN in 2014: "It stands at 35.5 per 100,000 people for 2012, the last year for which numbers are available. Across all age groups, nearly 260,000 people in India killed themselves that year." For its entire population, India ranks 16th in the world, behind Russia, South Korea, and Japan.)

Crashing a wedding party for a free meal, Rancho, Farhan, and Raju make acquaintance with Pia (Kareena Kapoor Khan), whose sister's fiancé Rancho insults, using the sauce that exposes people as phonies and asses, after recommending not marrying a man so enamored of brand names and of the cost of things; the trio soon discover that an indignant Pia is the daughter of the Virus.

Following warnings to Farhan and Raju and their parents, the Virus strongly recommends that they follow model student Chatur's example, if they hope to pass, rather than that of Rancho. As a demonstration to Raju and Farhan of the limitations on rote learning by making a fool of Chatur's habit of relying on memorization - reciting by rote before an audience of faculty and donors on Teacher's Day a speech in formal Hindi that Rancho modified to be insulting and vulgar - Rancho says to Chatur: "Don't chase success. Become a good engineer, and success will chase you." The Silencer retorts: "These ideals don't work in the real world."

When in his office on the third floor the Virus blackmails Raju with a threat of "rustication" (the humiliation of expulsion for a son would likely kill the student's impoverished, paralytic father) unless he implicates Rancho as responsible for the prank, Raju defies death and gravity. During an emergency involving Raju's frail father on the eve before an exam, Rancho summons Pia's assistance (still miffed by Rancho's exposing her boyfriend Suhas as a "price-tag" asshole, but reminded her of her allegiance as a medical student to the Hippocratic Oath) to get the invalid to the hospital in time to save his life.

Rancho wagers against the Virus's mustache that his friends, Farhan and Raju, will pass the ICE exam and get jobs. In the evening before the ICE exam, just as the Virus has caught the boys red-handed with a copy of the exam filched from his office, a monsoon storm floods the streets just as Pia's pregnant sister Mona goes into labor, unable to get to a hospital; at a distance from Mona, Pia must rely on communicating via computer with Rancho and his friends how to perform a difficult birth - complicated by a power outage and need of improvising a vacuum device to extract the fetus - to save mother and child.

Following Rancho's exhortation to Farhan to "Make your passion your profession," that of becoming a wildlife photographer, and to Raju to put away his fear of failure with a superstitious dependence on religious prayers instead of studies, Farhan confronts Rancho: "You're scared to tell Pia you love her, so you pretend you don't." Raju adds: "Easy to offer free advice, tough to follow it." They strike a bargain: if Rancho confesses to Pia, Raju will get rid of his religious rings and Farhan will marry photography.

Finally arriving in Shimla, the three young men encounter another mystery: the wealthy scion Ranchhoddas Shamaldas Chanchad, whose father's funeral is taking place, isn't the same person they knew in college. They are looking for Chhote, an orphan who had been a gardener.

"The pen featured in the film is not a fiction it is a reality. Joke about the pen visualised in the movie is actually taken from an old story on the space war between Russians and Americans. It is said that while the Americans were spending lot of money on inventing a pen that could write in space the Russians used pencils!. But of course this is a Joke. The truth is that the Russians and the Americans were using pencils for their space missions but these pencils turned out to be hazardous. The dust from the lead began clogging the electrical points of the spaceship and also was hazardous to the health of the Astronauts." (For more about the space pen go to link)

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2015 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

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