8/4/2013 (Sun), Tokyo
The comedy Three Idiots (2009) is apparently India’s biggest grossing film ever, which in itself piqued my curiosity. It’s unusually long for a comedy at 170 min, but its run in Japan has been exceptionally long for an Indian movie, suggesting that it has been well received, and was coming to an end. So without knowing anything more, I figured I’d go for it.
Two friends go on a search for their lost college buddy Ranco, who has mysteriously vanished. That prompts a reminiscence of their initial meeting ten years earlier. Ranco was a misfit whose unconventional thinking shakes up the university world to the great irritation of the dictatorial dean. He and his two friends eventually prevail in war (against the stultified teaching system, the severe dean, the overambitious exchange student, etc) and love (e.g. rescuing the dean’s own daughter from her social-climbing groom in the nick of time). After many wild adventures, including Ranco’s heroics with the dean’s other daughter when she suddenly goes into labor (in the dark, in the night, in the rain, in an empty classroom), he is finally recognized by the dean as a genius and has inspired his two friends to live their dreams. Then he disappears. When his friends go looking for him, they find that the person he claimed to be is someone else entirely. Who, where and what, then, is their friend?
The film was typical Bollywood fare – banana-peel humor, overextended scenes, wacky production numbers, implausible personalities. But it was also great fun, helped by some endearing actors, especially Ranco and the dean. The dean had a slight lisp that provided an interesting touch, and he did a nice job with his defeat and transformation at the end, gaining real sympathy from what could have been standard schlock. The script was all over the place, and the opening scenes (hazing session, reunion of two friends and exchange student atop tower) made me start thinking that I should have gone to the gym instead. But it soon found its groove and proved harmless enough. The birth scene towards the end, if far-fetched, was actually quite effective, and there were other nice moments scattered throughout, like the blackly comic transport of the sick old man on the motorcycle. I suspect they could have cut this movie to under two hours with a bit of work, and maybe the reported Hollywood remake will bring it down to size. Even so, it’s an enjoyable romp.