Film Notes: 3 IDIOTS

2 p.m. Sunday, April 24, 2016
53 Wall Street Auditorium
Introduction by Archer Neilson, post-screening discussion wiht Ashish Chadha
Film Notes by Archer Neilson

Directed by Rajkumar Hirani (2009) 170 mins
Written by Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijat Joshi
Produced by Vinod Chopra Productions
Distributed by Reliance Big Pictures
Starring Aamir Khan, R. Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Kareena Kapoor, Boman Irani, and Omi Vaidya

“If 2009 can begin with DEV.D and end with 3 IDIOTS, it is indeed time to sound the seetis and taalis for one of the most exciting years of contemporary Indian cinema.” —The Times of India

“All is well” in Rajkumar Hirani’s high-energy musical dramedy 3 IDIOTS, an ode to the pure joys of learning and the importance of forging your own path despite how much—or how little—is expected of you. The film won scores of awards, including three National Film Awards and five Filmfare Awards, and was described by critic Subhash K. Jha as “a vital, inspiring, and life-revising work of contemporary art with heart imbued into every part.” Loosely based on Chetan Bhagat’s best-selling 2004 novel Five Point Someone and largely told through flashbacks, the film chronicles the academic careers of three mismatched roommates making their way through the highly prestigious and hypercompetitive Imperial College of Engineering (with Bangalore’s iconic Indian Institute of Management buildings standing in for the fictional ICE’s Delhi campus). The film diverges from the novel in scenes set more than a decade after graduation, featuring an epic Himalayan road trip and a quest to reveal the secrets surrounding the brilliant and idiosyncratic former student Rancho, played by Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan.

3 IDIOTS reunited actors Khan, Sharman Joshi, and R. Madhavan, who had previously performed in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s 2006 critical and box office hit RANG DE BASANTI. Though The Village Voice has praised Khan’s ability to play “almost childlike” characters such as the undergrad Rancho, he was 43 years of age when the film was shot, just five years younger than Boman Irani in the role of Virus, the college’s pompous director. Born into a filmmaking family, Khan earned his first acting credit at age eight in his uncle Nasir Hussain’s YAADON KI BAARAAT. He’s been a major star for a quarter century, earning fans and praise early in his career for films such as HOLI, DIL, RAJA HINDUSTANI, and EARTH. In 2001, he produced and starred in LAGAAN, which became only the third Indian film to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Four films in which Khan starred—2008’s GHAJINI, 2009’s 3 IDIOTS, 2013’s DHOOM 3, and 2014’s PK—each set a record for the all-time highest-grossing Indian film, and PK, from the writers and director of 3 IDIOTS, still holds that title.

The box office success of 3 IDIOTS made it the first member—and for over three years the only member—of the prestigious “200 crore club,” a designation for Indian films earning more than Rs 2 billion, or around $30 million. Part of that success is due to its popularity abroad: it was the highest-grossing Indian film in overseas markets (currently 4th), and became a huge hit in East Asian markets, rare for an Indian film. The Tamil remake NANBAN was released in 2012, the Mexican 3 IDIOTAS is slated for release later this year, and new versions are reportedly in development in Hong Kong under producer Stephen Chow, in the U.S., and in Italy. This January, Hirani announced that he and Abhijat Joshi are developing the script for a sequel, and original cast members Khan and Madhavan subsequently hinted they would return for the project. 3 IDIOTS was one of the first Indian films licensed for distribution on YouTube, though we’re pleased to present the 35mm Yale Film Archive print on the big screen instead.

DID YOU KNOW: Like some students in the film, director Rajkumar Hirani's parents picked a profession for him: chartered accountant. Fortunately, they became very supportive of his interest in filmmaking and encouraged him to apply to the Film and Television Institute of India, where he studied editing.

Presented in the Treasures from the Yale Film Archive series with support from Paul L. Joskow '70 M.Phil., '72 Ph.D. Printed Film Notes are distributed to the audience before each Treasures screening.

Last modified: 
Monday, April 10, 2023 - 2:04pm