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Saturday, January 16, 2010

3 Idiots

While I did enjoy the movie (many of my old boys have told me 'Sir, Aamir has used many of the very words and examples you have been saying for years!'), and would like all of my pupils and their parents to see it, I also liked this thought-provoking critique of it. I wrote the following comment there:

"As a teacher for 29 years, I agree with your take. Only, you should have stressed the idea that becoming a wildlife photographer or musician requires the same degree of both talent and hard work. Even more than becoming anti-intellectual, anti-studies, the Indian middle class has become anti-anything that doesn't lead up to so-called 'centres of excellence' like the IITs and IIMs, ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of our biggest achievers over the last 50 years never went to either of them, and looking down on anybody who doesn't go in for science at the plus-two level. If we produce Tagores and Satyajit Rays again, it will not be due to but in spite of our IITs and IIMs. Also to be noted: a few dozen corporate honchos and a sprinkling of social do-gooders yes, but how many global product/process patents and Nobel Prizes and the like have these 'centres of excellence' produced since their inception? I think that is what Aamir/Rancho has been asking."

By the way, someone who is an IIT-IIM alumnus wrote in a supportive comment on Sagarika's blog moments after I posted mine!

P.S., Jan. 28: I found this critique of not just 3 Idiots but how Bollywood cinema is evolving most engaging. Any comments from serious aficionados?


Tanmoy said...

Dear Suvro da

I read Sagarika Ghosh's article and also your comment. I agree with what you said. In fact as some of your students have pointed out, you did mention these things before.

In some ways I have met many "Chaturs" in my life in Durgapur. Yes, not one but many.

In fact those "Chaturs" suffocated me so much that I ran away from Durgapur and did my plus 2 in Calcutta. Even now when I get in touch with those Chaturs, I see they have not changed at all.

I have also met some brilliant people who were never great accumulator of marks.

Therefore, whilst I took the film 3 idiots as a mere source of entertainment rather than a commentary, I agree with those parts / characters of the film.

Also Sagarika Ghosh did comment about the character of Virus being a caricature. To be honest, initially even I thought that the actor went a bit over board. I mean I have not met such a teacher ever. Having said that, sadly there are such teachers too. I could actually remember someone from Durgapur, whom I shall not name, who was eccentric in very weird way. He used to give a speech similar to the one delivered by Virus in his tution classes. I went to his class only once.

I don't think the film showed anything which makes students to hate studies etc. It never claimed to being anything but an entertainer.



Sumitha said...

I have watched the few movies that I have, for the sake of entertainment; I usually leave my thinking unit behind when I watch a movie, which is why I suppose I watch so few of those. And so I suppose, I found 3 idiots a fun movie; something that made me laugh (and it was the LOL laugh that we only refer to when we chat on IM).

A discussion on what the movie tried to promote or not promote, I shall leave to the critics. But yes, there are some things that I probably couldn't not muse about, after having read Sagarika Ghose's blog (and many other such critiques, notwithstanding discussions with friends and colleagues), and some of the comments there.
It is sad, but it's a fact that urban middle class Indian parents are totally besotted by aiding and abeting their wards' academic skills (or the lack thereof) in the pursuit of higher degrees, qualifying entrance examinations, and so on and so forth. To the extent that if a child gets the coveted 6 points in the ICSE exam and thereafter fails to secure a seat in a medical college (possibly because she never wanted to become a doctor and chose the "naughty" way out of the muddle by not performing well enough), her previous achievement (?) is deemed a "fluke". And people start wondering whether she will ever become a success (whatever that means); and her parents start feeling that life is an unnecessary and endless string of hopelessness! So yeah, that part where Madhavan's character's father raves and rants about his sacrifices inorder to ensure that his son could study peacefully, and the Chatur guy's act that brought back memories from a long lost era in school, rang a chord of reality somewhere in my being; much more than any of the reality shows on TV these days.
India is weighed down by the hopes and aspirations of several millions who want more...more of what exactly, they don't really know. But to get to that state of having more, they would gladly spend hours in toil to earn higher degrees (because everyone has a higher degree these days, or you fall behind in the rat race, buddy!), and whatever else it takes to get there -- to the land of have mores.

As for me, I would prefer to be something else...maybe a cat, or a butterfly or a bee, but definitely not a rat!

Sumitha Kurien

Joydeep said...


Many thanks for providing this interesting, thought-provoking link. While I agree with Sagarika Ghose's views on a few matters, I largely disagree with her analysis of the movie. Here is my take on this-

1. It's true that the IITs have produced visionary entrepreneurs like Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani and Vinod khosla. Sadly, it's also true that while thousands of students have graduated in 60 years, we can't name 50 people who have reached such high standards. And it's utterly regrettable that we can't name a single IITian who has won a Nobel Prize or a Fields Medal. Numerous intelligent, bright young people get into the IITs every year- why does it have to be so hard for Mrs. Ghose to figure out that there would be a few exceptions to the general rule? The rule in this case being to get into the IITs by hook or by crook, to get into the IIMs thereafter, and finally to land a job in an investment bank which uses none of the engineering knowledge. Let's not fool ourselves into believing that IITs and IIMs are centers of excellence. More importantly, let's not fool ourselves into believing that the majority of the students get admitted into these institutes to become excellent. That is unless, of course, me and Mrs. Ghose hugely disagree with the definition of 'excellence'.

2. I went to an engineering college myself and during the four year course work, I had at least 20 Professors teaching me. I am sorry to report that with the exception of two Professors, I found the rest to be boring, insensitive and lacking in teaching ability. Sure, there was nobody who represented Professor Virus, although I wouldn't say that he didn't remind me of some
people when I watched the movie. My friends from other engineering colleges have told me that the situation is the same everywhere, if not worse. The question is- why should there be only 2 good Professors out of 20 in a college? Should we be content with this scenario? Shouldn't there be at least 15 Professors out of 20 who can teach well, behave well, fairly judge the quality of the students and not indulge themselves in petty politics and nepotism? Mrs. Ghose should ask these questions to engineering students first before gloating in the fact that there are many learned, inspiring teachers out there.

3. I believe that Mrs. Ghose didn't get the message of this movie right. The film doesn't disdain hard work and academic brilliance. Nor does it advise to resort to useless avocations. What it does is to simply urge people to follow their passions with genuine sincerity and honesty. Mrs. Ghose knows how hard it can be to become a successful wildlife photographer. She should also know how difficult it can be for a student who doesn't like mathematics to convince his parents not to appear for the Engineering entrance test. I entirely agree with her that students should not shy away from stress and discipline. And had the film shown the educational system as poorly as Mrs. Ghose believes it did, Rancho wouldn't have come first in the final results.

I think I have ranted long enough. Thanks for being with me till the end.


Amit parag said...

If the message of the film can be summed up in a single line, then I think that that line is this:
“Do whatever you love-if you do not want to be an engineer do not be, but if you want to be one, by all means be the best”.
This is precisely what J.K Rowling said in one of her interviews.
I too enjoyed the movie immensely and I would give it eight out of ten, if movies like “Black” and “Lage Raho Munnabhai” get nine out of ten. But I disagree with her when she says that IITians and the IITs are a source of pride for us. I live with 3000 potential IITians and I can go on for pages saying what is wrong with us, with the education system. Note that she has not herself suggested the solution of the problem of education system. There aren’t any Nobel Prize winners from any of these famed IITs because while MIT requires the applicant to write “about the world where he comes from and how that has shaped his dreams and aspirations” and about the applicant favorite authors, IITs do not. This, I think, makes all the difference. IITs lay stress on one side, MIT stresses on both side( most of MIT students major in at least two subjects ,like in neuroscience and in history; this creates the misbalance in IITs and has heralded the age when most Indians are brain dead. About the ubiquitous Chaturs, I would not waste my breadth.

When I read John Ruskin’s famous speech on “the degradation of modern life”, I then find similarities in what he says and what Sir has spent a lifetime of energy virtually shouting. For heaven’s sake, the film says a tiny fraction (not “many”) of what Sir has been saying for years.

Sumitha said...

I have always maintained that judging someone by their performance in an exam is a risky affair, particularly if the intention is to grant admission to a course, or award a degree for life. And that would be because one's performance in an exam is always goverened by chance/probability as well as serendipity at times. There were numerous occassions when the answer to some particularly puzzling question struck me at an odd moment, like while having dinner, or boarding the school bus, or in my dreams (but almost never when in the exam hall!).
Who knows, maybe if I had been born a year earlier, or two years later, I wouldn't have been working in the particular firm that i'm currently in...Or maybe I would have got that university rank I narrowly missed... Or I could have flunked that course in electrical systems design and drawing...or something equally insignificant to everyone except me :)

Scoring well on an exam, is a question of being at the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. That doesn't signify anything much at all; unless one has something more concrete than just the marks/grades and the degrees to justify one's claim to being someone that one's family/society/nation can be proud of.
I think Shakespeare's famous "What's in a name" is quite relevant in the IIT/IIM context. Brand names are good, but they shouldn't be held as the pride of a nation, particularly when there is no real or significant cause for such pride.


sabujkoli mukherjee said...

I really enjoyed the film very much.It does not discourage hard work...it is only suggesting that whatever we do,should be done with sincerity and honesty.Even if become engineers we should not do it just because our parents or relatives want us to be so...we should only if it is our passion.
If we do things to please others then we can never be successful...and after time has flown away we will have to sing"Give me another chance to live"but unfortunately life does not give another chance.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thanks for commenting, Sabujkoli. Just one question for you to consider: just how many of your friends, male or female, have a 'passion' for engineering - in the sense that they are not only good with their hands on all kinds of gadgets, but read a great deal on their own about how people build bridges and engines and circuits and so on, and know a lot about the work and lives of some actual great engineers whom they want to be like? I very much doubt that many such exist: what most people mistake for passion is what 'everybody is doing'!... that applies to students and their parents alike in this country: 'I am passionate that my son must become just like the next-door neighbour's son'.

mshameek@gmail.com said...

Dear sir,
I agree with what Amit has said,the movie only tells us about a small fraction of what you have been telling all these years.But there still remains a big question markabout when people will realize this!(as you had told us,the "vast majority" of the people are too ignorant or "too busy" with other trivial things).

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I think it would be a great idea if you wrote at some length about what really goes on in Kota - India's great IIT factory - and what sort of people actually get into the IITs these days. You being someone who is well-read, thoughtful and articulate, and located strategically, you could provide valuable inputs and perhaps help a few parents and pupils of mine to choose wisely while planning their career moves!

And Shameek, thanks for commenting. Yes, as I said before, I have little hope of things changing for the better. Do you know that most people are saying 'After all, 3 Idiots is only meant for entertainment, we shouldn't bother our heads too much about any serious messages...'? And I cannot tell you how many parents right here in Durgapur are still insanely convinced that getting into IIT is a bigger 'achievement' than becoming an Ambani, an Aamir Khan, a Sachin Tendulkar, a real scientist or a prime minister!... and their 'successful' sons are by and large happy to let their parents continue to live in the happy illusion.

Amit parag said...

Kota has six major factories from where about ten thousand boys (from each coaching class) appear for the jee each year. That makes about sixty thousand students taking jee. So, why only four thousand students only selected each year? There must be something grossly wrong going on in Kota.
I will be very straightforward in my words, so please do not take what I write as hyperbole or understatement.

Teachers here are not respected in the least. Boys use the choicest swear words on each other and on the teachers, the teachers also reply back in kind AND most (about 97 percent) teachers are ex-IITians.The study ambience depends solely on the student- whether he is capable of creating the suitable environment for studying, is a matter of choice for him enough. There is no culture here. This is, in fact, the reason why I fear going to the IIT- I would not be able to live four more years with the same students. The students who would be coming here solely due to pressure from parents and other sources( that is they do not have an iota of their own inclination for admission in one of the IITs), run away from home.
Then the choice of coaching class is a matter of great concern. Bad and inept teachers can ruin the student. Books are quite useless IF student follows the curriculum religiously. However the course to be followed and the amount of hard work which the coaching classes require is more than enough, which is to say that they will push the student to the limit. Admission in the IITs is nearly guaranteed if the student studies sincerely, but let this be not the most important reason while deciding to come to Kota BECAUSE MANY TIMES IN MANY CASES THIS DECISION BACKFIRES as I will explain in the next paragraph.


Amit parag said...


But then the main problem is the feeble mind of MOST students. They live here alone, in hostels and in paying guests, so they very quickly lose their heads over “freedom" which they get here- freedom noticeably from the discipline enforced by parents. No wonder that cyber cafes’ and shopping malls’ owners do very thriving and rewarding business. There are boys who sit in cafes for ten to twelve hours on end playing silly games, seeing stupid movies and listening to third rate songs. The feeble minded students make new friends (boys and girls) and get lost in the herd. The prevailing standard of intelligence of students and teachers is less than zero. Boys know the equations of photoelectric effect but cannot say on what topic Einstein was given Nobel Prize!
The other day I was hearing Nash's after Nobel Prize interview in a cafe. The boy beside me was fidgeting to say something to someone. Seeing none nearby, he disturbed me and showed the photo (on Orkut) of the highest marks getter of the jee, and said," He is my friend. You know, his brain is being researched in the Bhabha lab. He is the next genius after Einstein". What downfall of standards! If anyone of the future students is educated and has a propensity for serious literature and economics and cannot tolerate stupidity, DO NOT come anywhere near this city. You are taking the risk of killing your mind.
However if you think that you can shut yourself up (I have been successful in this endeavor: I know only two students with whom I talk about once in two days) from any company, IIT is your ambition and your mind is strong enough not to be diverted to one of the many roads of pleasure and pastime that this city provides, by all means come here. If students belonging to this group love reading novels then they are in for a hard time.

Now, the general picture.
The total cost of living here for two years is any amount between 2.75 to 3 lakh rupees {tuition + house rent+mess+student's own expenses+ six to seven visits to the only restaurant which provides non vegetarian cuisine(to be clear, six or seven visits every month: that restaurant is like my second house) +every known expense}.
For parents:

Do not get upset if you child gets into any eccentric habit like bathing at 8 pm in the evening, going to park to play soccer at 11 pm at night, sleeping throughout the day and being awake throughout the night. After all, what the student feeds to his brain is what matters not when he goes to sleep. I, for one, do all of the above!

Sir, do tell me if I miss anything.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Fantastic, Amit. Tell me more - all you can. What, in your considered opinion, is wrong with a country where tens of thousands of parents want to slow-kill their children this way, and are happy with the businessmen calling themselves teachers who milk them for all they are worth?

Rajdeep said...

I liked the movie but it is a fantastic fantasy. A person whose father earns Rs. 2500 cannot be admitted in that kind of a hospital in this country and chances of studying at such an university is one in a billion in today's India. But again I hope through fun and frolic the movie changes a few people. At least it is encouraging that a lot of people went to see the movie, though I doubt they really understood the subtle messages while savoring coke and popcorn. I liked the first half of the movie and thought that it became more and more unrealistic towards the end. But all in all a much better movie than the thousands that come out.

Amit parag said...

I think that the parents(and their genius sons and daughters) are in love with the thought of getting a "chance"( this term was made known to me by a Bengali friend) in IIT, naturally they do not consider admission to IIT as a road to study engineering.IITs for them are sort of glamour and fashion for the elite, surely they want to get there. Of the 7200 students admitted in IITs each year, I believe that only 15 to 20 want to be really engineers:to be someone who can lay out the blueprint of some huge bridge is the dream of very few. My own dad and mom continuously exhort me to study these two years so that I can free for the entire life.They cannot/don't want to imagine that I love studying.This is the imagination of nearly all parents who send their wards here. Till the tenth standard, students are made to think that IIT gives you a sort of distinction in the social hierarchy: this is precisely the reason why there are so many potential engineers here.

Note that the only brilliant boy who really wanted to research and study further, nearly maxed the jee two years back from here and left IIT for MIT. The few students whom I had conversed with in the past used to continually say that IITs can get you placement in Reliance or Sahara Or Kingfishers. But when I tell them that none of their dream company' owner was from IIT,they would make the stupid excuse of those people being genius. Of course they are extraordinary only because they followed sincerely their own hearts, they knew that if they took that road they would surely give orders to "far more educated" IITians. If this is some great wisdom rather than common sense, so be it.

I agree that the syllabus for the jee is nothing less than vast and the coaching classes here tend to make it larger. And so when the workload hits those students in the face, who are in search of fashion, they fall to never get up.This is precisely the reason why thousands of squatters are found on the streets everyday.The people who teach here are increasingly becoming inept with each passing month, with the effect that the interest of students wane every week: but this happens to very few student, to those who do not belong in the before mentioned groups. But the situation is that for the few who love engineering and are not selected in the first attempt, come back here to study again after twelfth standard simply because there is no other better place in India( as I will do,most probably the next year).


Amit parag said...


So here once again I list the wrong connections with the majority of us here:

a) Students are in love with the thought of getting admission into IIT. Few come here due to pressure from parents.
b) They live here alone in hostels and make their own definitions of freedom every now and then.
c) Given the strong attraction of estrogen and testosterone, members of both sexes lose their heads and consequently ruin their future too.
d) That coupled with the fact that there are many ways of murdering time,cyber cafes(staying for the entire night therein too!) and friends, 90 percent students kill their minds altogether.
e) Those who came here for glamour cannot lift the weight of huge coursework for more than a few days. So they waste two entire years on the pretext of studying.
f) The prevailing level of stupidness chokes those minds which have a tiny hint of spark within.
The environment, cleanliness and the repertoire of words used in plain conversations in Kota tends to corrupt the minds of students and mould it to a shape more to its liking.

The teachers,nearly all of them are ex-IITians who work for 12 lakh rupees per annum,which can be increased to 35-40 lakh, are fools and inepts by any sane standard and cannot keep the interest up for more than a few minutes. But by teaching the same high level concept each year, they unwitttingly set limits to their own knowledge and the ability to know more. Consequently they become brain dead and impart the above mentioned skill to future IITians who will surely come back to teach here.

Why the parents want to slow kill their sons?
The only reason I can think of( for the majority , of course) is that most of the parents, not being IITian themselves, want to achieve that status through their children.It feels sort of smug to say," Mr X. my son will not come home for the Durga Puja, you know he is busy with IIT. By the way where is your son studying?"
Who cares a hoot if the child gets lost in the herd! The only IITian parent I know of is not even remotely concerned about his son getting admission to IIT.Instead he always ,in the strictest terms, berates his son for not reading a book every day.Funny how things work!
But if the child is located in the mean, and it is no small matter to be located in the mean( sorry Sir, for plagiarizing from your essay!), then he will surely be able to make it to the IITs. But they are in for a very boring time.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Can't I expect more people to comment here, with fresh perspectives? Especially from IITians and ex-IITians who can confirm that even those who have done really well in those institutes and made their country proud have achieved it much more due to their own personal merit and drive rather than due to anything that the institutes gave them?

Rajdeep said...

Written on an auto rickshaw:
"Capacity - 3 Idiots"

Nishant said...

The movie itself was pretty good with some fresh humour and it's the first Hindi movie I saw in months (one of the very few in several years). I remember Sir telling us some things mentioned in the movie: there being a difference between teachers and instructors, being trained and educated, memorizing and learning and the like. In all of my five years at IIT I found exactly three instructors who not only knew their subjects well but also knew how to get them across to us. There was a handful that knew their stuff but wouldn't, even if their lives were at stake, be able to teach. There were of course the rest who it seemed didn't even know what they were 'teaching'. One might be able to count on his fingers the number of really good instructors there are, and if you look at the percentage, it’s next to nothing.
As to what Amit mentioned about the language used by the students, all I have to say is it's prevalent everywhere (inside and outside India, at universities and workplaces, across all ages). It's up to you to refrain from using swears and curses like punctuations in a sentence. Boys at Kota or IIT or any other college anywhere are still humans and therefore susceptible to do 'wrong' or stupid things. I used to be quite shocked and offended on seeing people smoke pot and punctuate their sentences quite liberally and without the least bit of bother but now I just don't care about such things anymore. As long as I don't do it, I'm fine.
Some of the guys I met at IIT were there because they were genuinely interested in learning Physics or Maths or whatever (a guy ranked 11 and another ranked 87 had taken up Physics while anyone else would have taken up hot streams like Computer Science or Electronics). Even then, some of them got disillusioned with the curriculum and with the instructors and kinds of tests.
Many of the students had got in just in the flow and expected to go where the tide took them. Even I once believed that once I got into IIT I wouldn't have to worry about much the rest of my life. But thankfully I realized that while getting in doesn't secure anything, it does give a good platform for further endeavours be it going for further studies (good contacts of professors with those in other universities), taking the CAT or GMAT (studying, discussing with others and more importantly boosting each others' morale), being members of teams that organize big events in the institute (looking for sponsors, managing and hence learning a lot in the process and of course being able to add it to the CV), providing a brand value and being able to appear for job interviews of rather good companies (which come to the campus). I consider myself quite lucky and have much to be thankful for: made a few (new) good friends, watched tonnes of movies from around the globe, traveled a bit, started reading New Scientist (a popular science magazine that I simply love) and got a job which makes me travel around, meet people, and makes me apply whatever I learnt in college as well as keep learning things.
So while just getting into an IIT might not be the be all and end all of all things, it could be a means of getting to the next level (at least in my case, it has been so, so far, and I can't thank my luck enough). But again, I am just a regular Joe and IIT hasn't turned me into a business magnate or a Nobel Laureate. And I can assure the reader that no IIT by itself would be able to do so unless the person's got it in him/her (in which case it wouldn't really matter where the person studies anyway), which is exactly what you see in the movie (Rancho, the stud with a hundred and twenty patents to his name, and the other two idiots, anonymous, living comfortable lives doing what they like).

Suvro Sarkar said...

I have been thinking about a suitable answer to Sir's post and the comments thereafter, but a logical coherent response is very difficult to articulate here. Having gone through the grind of IIT and then "wasting" it all by taking the CAT and getting into an IIM and landing an investment banking job thereafter, I must fall into the category most vilified in the movie and some of the commentators. However, from a purely emotional point of view, I would never want to distance myself from these so called "centres of excellence", because despite whatever misguided path I've taken in life up to now, the IIT and IIM have not been to blame. If anything, they have been huge positives. Of course, there are negatives as well which I will point out. Overall, this will be a rather long, rambling and confused post. Please bear with me.

1. Why do some many people take the IITJEE exam despite not knowing what engineering really is? Because many of us just follow our parents' dreams, given the fact that we don't have any dreams ourselves. Because my parents come from a generation where they were not really assured of any financial backing, they wanted us to secure our finances first before thinking about dreams. The glamour of an IIT admission is not always the cause. More children in developed nations can easily think of alternative careers/ dreams/ passions because they can afford to, from childhood. They were brought up in a secure environment, whereas we were not. While that is not enough to kill dreams, the sad part is, at the point of my high school examinations, I had no idea where my dreams lay. Or my passions. All I knew was I found mathematics easy, I found languages interesting, I had an excellent short-term memory, I was speedy, accurate and efficient. I liked Chemistry as much as I did Geography. I had no idea where all this was pointing to. So I took the JEE, because I knew I could crack it. It gave me four more years to figure out what I wanted to do in life. It would give me a platform to pursue my dreams.

2. At this point of time, let me take the opportunity to share my loathing for all those who took one-two years off after their Class XII exams to attend some coaching centre in Delhi or Kota to make the cut. The advent and spread of these coaching institutes is the turning point where the quality of education in IITs took a nosedive. Before them, I believe only those children who consistently scored good marks in Mathematics and Science at school were “pressurized” to take the IITJEE. After Kota came, parents started to believe that two years and 3 lakhs investment could transform anyone into an IIT-ian. Of course, the quality of students does make a difference. I am not defending the Professors here, but why would the Professors take any interest in imparting quality education when the students themselves took no interest? For most students, clearing the entrance exam after two hard years of slogging is enough motivation to let their hair down and not care about academics any more. Thus, most would list their “Top 2 percentile rank in IITJEE” as an academic achievement in their CVs rather than a CGPA in excess of 8/10 in IIT.


Suvro Sarkar said...

(continued...part 2)

3. I still believe the IITs and IIMs are centres of excellence as far as India is concerned. But, by no means are they the only centers of excellence. And it is up to the student to make full use of the facilities and infrastructure available at these institutes. The top IITs may or may not produce the best engineers of the country, but they do well enough on some other fronts. They instill a co-operative camaraderie among students as against the competitive framework that most parents strive to bring up their kids in. They do indeed promote the virtues of hard work, not only in academics, but in creative arts, drama, sports, technical skills, event organization, and even marketing and PR. All these are facets of active IIT life, which I have seen missing in most other institutes, where life is more about malls, motorbikes and women. And if smoking pot is a crime, I’m sure people in my father’s generation did it too, and they turned out to be some of the most dedicated engineers in their lifetime. Also, the fact that you meet people from all corners of the country, brilliant minds – some of whom are wholeheartedly involved in their thermodynamics and artificial intelligence and fuzzy logic, some who can speak in 9 languages and some who can convince Tata to part with 10 lakhs in sponsorship money by their glib talk – does help you broaden your horizons. That is, if you want to. If you don’t want to, you can stick to your South Point Calcutta classmates. But that isn’t the fault of the “centre of excellence”.

4. Are people wasting the Government subsidies by choosing to do an MBA and not using their engineering skills? Firstly, what exactly are the skills of an engineer – if you are saying screws and nuts and bolts, I beg to differ. I think it is the ability to approach a problem, analyse it logically and come to a scientific conclusion is what defines the critical skill for an engineer. And that should not necessarily be restricted to building bridges and assembling cars. In this context, let me also add, that speaking for the students of the Mechanical Engineering department, the first choice of jobs has always been among Tata Motors, Larsen & Toubro, ITC, Maruti Suzuki, Ashok Leyland et al. It is only because I did not qualify for any of these that I was forced to sit for IT companies like Accenture. And it was because I had no intention to pursue a job in the software industry and “waste” my talents that I opted to do an MBA, immediately after completing my graduation. Otherwise, I might have seriously considered honing my skills at any of the above companies. So why were there only 10-15 core sector jobs for the 50 odd students of the department, whereas there was no dearth of IT/ITES jobs for the whole institute? I am very sure I would have done more harm to my engineering degree by doing a coding job than what I am doing right now.

Mayuri said...

Dear Sir,

A few days back, I saw Three Idiots with my family at home, and I must say I was a little disappointed. I had heard rave reviews of the movie and I was expecting something that would at least be as entertaining as Lage Raho Munnabhai.
And while Three Idiots did have some genuine comedy and there were moments when we were rolling in laughter, there was an annoyingly large number of sequences when we were cringing in disgust! I wonder, was all that bathroom humour really necessary?
I believe that one big reason why the movie was such a big hit was because so many people could relate to it at a very personal level and didnt really care about its cinematic quality.
Of course, there is no denying that the movie had a significant message to put forward and in some ways, it was a hard hitting film but it made me sad to see how, by reducing the characters and the situations to mere caricatures, the film lost its power. Take for example the "science and creativity go hand in hand/ must think out of the box" theme which was depicted through the baby delivery sequence. The theme was great but it was depicted so poorly and in such a melodramatic manner, that if I were an non-believer, I would simply write it off as unrealistic! Same thing with Chatur's character -- he was such an annoying caricature! I understand that his character was supposed to bother you, but there is a difference between making me hate Chatur and making me want to stop watching the movie all together! Chatur is such a horrible reality of our society, I could not believe that the director could not find a more realistic way to portray his character. By making a grotesque caricature of this social stereotype, the film lost its ability to hold up a mirror to the real Chaturs of the world.
And I am still trying to figure out why Kareena Kapoor was in that movie -- other than her wet saree dance sequence, she was such a farcical imposition on the plot.

As a concluding point, let me clarify that I dont hate 3 Idiots nor do I think that it was a bad film --In fact, I think it was a good enough film. But just that. I am not convinced it was as brilliant a movie as I was expecting it to be (Lage Raho Munnabhai would be a good example of what I was expecting; others would include Munnabhai MBBS, Hera Pheri, Andaz Apna Apna, Bhool Bhulaiya from what I can remember off the top of my head).
I would love to know what the others thought with respect to these subjects.
PS: Some one told me, "You should have seen the movie at a theatre with friends. It would have been more fun and you would have liked it better." I think it probably would have been more of a laugh riot but still, shouldnt a supposedly "brilliant film" feel at least like a "very good film" irrespective of where you watch it?

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Thanks for the detailed and thoughtful comment, Suvro.

There was a third part to his comment which I somehow couldn't publish here - something to do with a blogger malfunction - but those interested can look it up in Suvro's own blog (suvroblogs.blogspot.com)

And as for the movie itself, thanks for commenting, Mayuri. I agree entirely with your remarks on the bathroom-variety of humour, which often made me cringe, and the very great deal of irrelevant razzmatazz. Alas, as some people who understand cinema told me, the Indian audience would by and large refuse to go in droves to watch a movie which doesn't cover up (and even distract form) a serious message with a lot of lowbrow tomfoolery which they call 'entertainment'. Without it, our best actors/directors would go hungry. It is to Aamir Khan's credit that even within these cramping confines, he keeps trying.

Shilpi said...

Unfortunately I haven’t watched the movie but I've been reading and re-reading Suvro da’s post, alongwith the article, and have been following the comments expressing different points of views with keen interest. I don’t know very much about the IITs, and until very recently I have not known anyone, not even as a passing acquaintance, who is an ex-IIT-ian….so I’ve been reading the comments on the IITs and pre-IITian experiences as well.

When we talk about educational institutions (or indeed about any ‘place’) we approach the issue from two sides – sometimes the sides may merge:

First, we relate to a place in personal terms – no matter how highly or lowly it is hailed. What sort of experiences does/did it provide for me as an individual? And here we may and do differ.

Second, we can also relate to a place in somewhat detached and objective terms. No matter what my own experiences were – is the institution itself what I’d call ‘excellent’? This can sometimes be an entirely different matter. Here things are not quite as relative and not quite a matter of subjective experience.

What makes for ‘excellence’ insofar as an educational institution is concerned? What makes for a ‘good’ educational institution? A basic requirement is that it must, must be equipped with a solid library, and that it must be able to foster a system whereby a student can search for, find, read, and browse through books written on a diverse range of subjects written by a wide range of authors.

That’s all for now….I will comment again Suvro da, after watching the movie – even if that’s five months from now.
Take care.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

You forgot to mention good teachers, Shilpi!

And do watch the movie soon.

sutirtha said...

It was great reading all the comments on this topic.What might be the cause of this IIT,MBA craze?In my opinion getting into IIT or any good B School is the easiest way of 'success'.By success I mean decent living,bank balance,honda city,Amex credit card,a matter of 'pride' for parents,show off .....etc(chatur syndrome).Neighbours envy ,parents pride!
IIT as well as other premier Engineering colleges have become manufacturing hubs for successful MBA contestants,who later on become glorified salesmen in CitiBank.As because CITI NEVER SLEEPS these MBAs make their customers weep!Beware the next time your MBA Relationship Manager makes a pitch for an insurance policy which will multiply your wealth 10 times in 5 years.Rules for a successful MBA salesman:GOLD IN YOUR PALM,SILVER IN YOUR TOUNGE,BRASS ON YOUR FACE AND IRON IN YOUR HEART!But only after 5 years will you regret listening to his 'advice' because you get to see who is swimming naked only after the tide is over!
And about IITians all I can say is that they are one of Indias best talent who join the herd to waste their true potential. But even then lets retain hope.3 Idiots might inspire atleast some of them.

Nishant said...

I thank Suvro (Sarkar) da and Shilpi di for their comments for they have helped me organize my thoughts better. Suvro da might have spoken for many of us. Sir knows me pretty well and he’s known me since I was in class nine. Sir’s seen me while I was going through the grind of four or five tuitions a week, bunking classes so I could stay at home and solve a few more problems or learn a few more equations. And all so I could somehow ‘crack’ the JEE and get into an IIT. And if after all that and more, I belittle the IITs, it would be mean, ungrateful, wrong and hypocritical of me.
The reason I was studying as hard as I could to get into an IIT has pretty much the same as Suvro da has mentioned. Science and Maths were the only subjects I felt I could have a career in. The seemingly best places in India where they build up on the knowledge of these subjects (at the Bachelors level) are the IITs. And I thought that if I got in, my future would be ‘secure’.
All of my first year was spent in studying with and competing against Chaturs and the Idiots trying to get a good enough GPA so I could change streams. Again, I was quite undecided as to what exactly I should study. As far as I was concerned, I just wanted to get as good grades as possible so I could choose the hottest stream I could get with my grades. It was not to be. I had to stick with what I had. That things worked out fine for me in the end is what I am so thankful for.
Regarding what Shilpi di said, I had some very good experiences at IIT as I have already mentioned in my previous post and nothing’s going to take those back from me. For the good experiences and friends and movies and the fact that things worked out fine for me, I’ll be always grateful to IIT-Kgp. But if I do look objectively, I would say that whatever I mentioned about the instructors isn’t far from the truth. In our department, we were asked to mug up as much theory as possible so we could throw it all up in the exams. When we asked practical and reasonable questions, we were scolded or replied ‘I’ll get to that later.’ A lot of what I had learnt then, I have understood now after working for a year. So it’s been quite a wait.

Nishant said...

We have got an amazing library, supposed to be the largest in Asia (at least it was when I was a student there) but which remains empty most of the time. One might see a few students taking nap between classes (thanks to the air-conditioning). There are net connections in all the rooms (thanks to the alumni) and every imaginable thing (from video lectures to classic movies, latest music to computer games, study materials for all sorts of exams to softwares) is available. It’s up to the students to make their best use. Contesting in elections, being part of teams that organize fests, performing on stage (music or drama productions) and other such activities are there to help students add to their range of extra-curricular activities and they are good learning experiences as well.
But as I had mentioned before we ultimately get a platform form which to take off. It’s up to the students to do so. And many people I saw had lost half their enthusiasm by the end of four or five years. Some were thinking ‘What if I’d done something differently?’ and some, who are working or studying, are thinking if they decided right and shouldn’t have done the other. Apart from three or four professors (definitely not in my department) who are known worldwide in their respective fields, I sadly didn’t meet or hear about anyone (student or faculty) with achievements close to Rancho’s.
And I seem to have offended many by my reference to 'pot'. Having been in Durgapur and in a rather controlled (and confined) environment, I had been led to believe that pot and such other things were bad. But now, a very good friend of mine (whom I befriended at IIT), does pot and what not and I don't let that bother me (as long as he doesn't spoil his health by overindulging). I’d just used it as an instance and don’t mean any offence.
It’s been a rather long post and Sir, I am sorry if it’s still incoherent and/or doesn’t relate to your blog but I do hope it’s a rejoinder to Suvro da and Shilpi di’s comments.

Shilpi said...

Ouch - so sorry Suvro da. How did I do that. Apologies. But maybe I missed mentioning it because I sound like a stuck recorder inside my head what with my constant harping on the necessity of having good teachers and my grouch and grief regarding the lack of the same.

Indeed no educational institution can be called good till it has good teachers.

Good teachers seem to be harder to come by than good or even fine libraries - and I'm not even talking about great or brilliant teachers here, but plain good ones. So curiously enough, the only good and great teachers that one has for life - unless one is enviably lucky - end up being books themselves, characters from books, and 'half-real' beings.

Shall watch the movie as soon as I can find it.
Take care.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Let the comments keep flowing. There are so many angles to this very vexed issue!

Suthirtha, thanks for the comment. A lot of people are going to go into angry denial ('We are not like that!') though we all know a lot of people of that sort, and have even suffered at their hands!

We have been talking only about people who are, at least in a limited sense, gifted - gifted enough to get into the IITs, that is, whatever that says about real talent. How about those hundreds of thousands who are determined to get even into third rate private colleges because they would rather call themselves engineers (though they would never be anything more than glorified mechanics) than read math or history or literature or economics or law, because they are sure that that is sure to spell disaster?

Shilpi said...

...but Suvro da - that's because it takes much, much more to be able to read, remember, and connect when one is dealing with math, history, literature, economics, and what-have-you.

...and this is also in connection to what you wrote in another of your posts (or was it a comment) regarding education and being educated and having a job.

I'l write more later.
Take care.

sanjukta said...

Dear Sir,
Well after watching 3 Idiots it seems like making a child do what he/she is not fond of is one the remaining forms of slavery. From every 10 houses you choose, 9 have this problem gnawing at their existence. Many parents want their children to do what they once wanted. For instance: if a father is a mechanic, he wants his son to become a doctor/engineer. But there must be other things that he could not do like becoming a singer/dancer/player…. Why can’t the child choose one from these? The answer is ‘the neighbours’. Without passion you may get a few degrees but you don’t get happiness. As Sir always says ‘joy’ is the goal of life.
‘Chatur’ was appreciated by many of his teachers but ‘Rancho’ was not. This did not come as a surprise because great people like Einstein and Newton were never appreciated at the first go. Well nobody remembers the ‘Chatur’ in Einstein’s class. There were many things depicted in the movie like pressure on children and evils of the present system of education. I do not think this is going to change much today. But today those who are children will be adults tomorrow .If they change for the better then tomorrow will be better. This movie has opened many eyes. Let us hope that they stay opened for a while.
With respect from,
Sanjukta Saha

Soumallya Chattopadhyay said...

I have some questions regarding the movie....
In one of the scenes,Aamir makes a comment about Suhaas which goes like this-"Agar bank mein hi naukri karni thi,to engineering kyon padha?"
Now no one knows what job he is going to get in future.The field of studies and the field of job is completely different.....one has to do a job in order to look after his family....and that may or may not coincide with his field of studies.
Take for example the ICS(Indian Combined Services)examination conducted by the UPSC.Any person can apply for the job,whether he reads engineering,or science or arts or commerce.Moreover,the job of an IAS officer is not at all concerned with what he has studied during Graduation(I mean Physics,Maths,History,etc....)He has to look after local administration.Now if someone asks "what is the use of studying Science,(or engineering)if he wants to sit for the ICS exam?",would it be a sensible question?
Similarly,I want to ask what is the wrong with studying MBA?Administration of Business is also something that has to be learnt.A Business firm cannot be run successfully by any Tom,Dick and Harry.There must be some tactics,which has to be learnt to manage a business firm....A businessman has to look after the Finance,Human resource,etc. to run his business.And the MBA's help him to do the same,isn't it?
Regarding the IIT's,I would say that these colleges are responsible only to teach engineering and science.They are not concerned with what a student is going to take up as his career.It is upto the student what he wants to be in future......whether he would become a scientist or the manager of a company.So you can't blame the IIT's that there are no noble laureates in our country.....if the vast majority of the students opt for doing jobs,IIT's cannot do anything in this regard.
These questions stormed my mind for quite long.So at last,I thought it better to ask you and know your opinion.I would be thankful to you if you clear my queries.
Yours faithfully,
Soumallya Chattopadhyay

Suvro Chatterjee said...

To a great extent you are right about the first point, Soumallya, though I have heard and read IIT professors lamenting that so much of their work goes waste because so many of their students go on to do the kind of work they don't need their engineering training for, thereby wasting those years and seats for which so many millions desperately aspire, and on which so much government subsidy goes waste (did you read your newspaper today? The government is at last thinking of raising IIT fees so that students and their parents shoulder the full burden, knowing that very few come from poor families, and all go in with one aim alone: making good money afterwards, very often abroad, even if that calls for merely selling soap or cola or credit cards.)

As for Nobel Prizes and so on, of course I blame the IIT setup squarely (read Nishant's comment) - they are undergraduate churning factories, where little research is done, and definitely not encouraged! Which is precisely why I have such a strong objection to calling them 'centres of excellence'. How many times should I ask how many product/process patents taken out by the IITs have become hits globally? That other colleges are even worse does not make them 'excellent', unless I am determined to be illogical! Remember my telling you that whoever I ask whether, if he got admission to MIT, would even stop to look at the IITs, always replies with a stony silence?

About MBAs, I have said enough in my blogpost titled 'Monkeys in Armani suits'...

Subhasis Graham Mukherjee said...

meant to say something in this thread, never got around to it.

most valuable lesson from Rancho - enjoying every bit of what he's doing, till the end as the Ladakhi entrepreneur cum 'skhool mashter' Wangroo. that's what should be the focus - enjoying what one does.

like Suvro enjoys his work through these blogs - not much professional and definitely no monetary returns. But who can take away the fun and enjoyment from these?

I haven't had the good fortune of seeing Ladakh, but from what I saw in the movie, specially the last shots, it's unbelievable. I have driven through the mountains and valleys of British Columbia and Alberta in Canada several times - including the famous and imposing Canadian Rockies through parks like Jasper and Banff. Ladakh seems to beat that. Would like see.

Abhirup said...

Sagarika Ghose’s analysis of ‘3 Idiots’ is woefully flawed and misleading. After reading it, I was torn between the desire to get angry and to laugh derisively. In the end I opted for the latter, because laughter is good for health and anger isn’t, and also because the essay deserved scorn more than it deserved anger. She accuses the film of saying a lot of things which were never said or even implied in the film. The worst things about the article was her constant reference to the IITs and the IIMs as “centres of excellence”, when in reality these institutions hardly deserve such incessant glorification, and her claim that the film is disrespectful of education and learning, when in reality it only asks for much-needed reforms in the education system. I have already written at length to Sir on what is wrong with her views, but in retrospect, I don’t think she deserved the time and attention I devoted in dissecting her article. In fact, calling it an article is to give it too much credit; it is more of a redundant rant, caused either by Mrs. Ghose’s poor understanding of cinema, or (more likely) by some kind of agenda which she had in mind while writing it. So, rather than waste any more time on it, I shall move on to my opinion on the film. Here it is.

1) After multiple viewings, I have concluded that ‘3 Idiots’ is a very good film, though far from perfect (more on the imperfections later). Film is essentially an audio-visual form of storytelling, and Rajkumar Hirani and Aamir Khan are both gifted storytellers. They have transformed Chetan Bhagat’s mediocre novella into a much superior film, one that, for the most part, holds the viewers’ attention and involves them emotionally in the tale that unfolds on the screen. The friendship that develops between Rancho, Farhan and Raju is traced beautifully; not just the merrymaking and the mutual affection but also the occasional arguments and misunderstandings that occur between them are well-depicted. Life on a college campus is captured in a mostly authentic way, and the film’s chief thematic concern—the shortcomings of the education system and need to address these—is effectively weaved into the proceedings. The first half, in fact, is delightful, and does an excellent job in taking the story to a particular point. The post-interval part, while not dreadful, does falter significantly, but is nevertheless made watchable by some nice moments that are thankfully included in the film (this, too, I shall discuss in greater details later). Hirani has a true flair for humour (as is evinced in his ‘Munnabhai’ films too), and while ‘3 Idiots’ does have toilet humour that is at odds with the director’s more refined sensibilities, it also has scenes that are genuinely witty and hilarious (such as the one where Rancho is asked the definition of machine, the one where the three friends enter the wedding of Professor Virus’s daughter uninvited, and the two scenes where Rancho demonstrates to Pia what a shallow and unpleasant person her would-be husband is). A few other scenes are downright sidesplitting, such as Chatur’s Teacher’s Day speech and the one where Rancho submits the answer scripts to the invigilator after the examination. Some of the one-liners are the funniest I have heard in a long time. One of my favourite scenes is the one showing the behaviour of the students on the day the results are to be announced. One is feeding milk to a cobra, calling the snake “nag devta.” Another is feeding grass to a cow, addressing it as “go-mata.” Yet another is depositing hundred rupees at a roadside temple. And all of them are praying desperately for good marks. Apart from the obsession with marks, the other thing this scene shows is that the people performing these superstitious acts are, ironically, people who study science!

Abhirup said...


Equally affecting are the moments of poignancy: the suicide of a student early on in the film, and Raju’s attempted suicide come to my mind in this context. The characters have a lifelike feel to them, not least because the actors playing them are so good. Aamir Khan is impressive as usual as the puckish, intelligent and good-natured Rancho, and R. Madhavan and Sharman Joshi, two of our finest character actors, compliment him superbly as Farhan and Raju. Even Kareena Kapoor, an actress I have little regard for, does well (except in that scene where she acts drunk), showing that while working under a good director, she can deliver a good performance (as she did in Govind Nihalani’s ‘Dev’ and Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘Omkara’ too). The pick of the lot, though (at least for me) was newcomer Omi Vaidya as Chatur. He does such a wonderful job in bringing to life a character who is both hilarious and irritating. In one of the previous posts Chatur’s character is described as a “grotesque caricature.” I totally disagree. I have met quite a few people in my life who are uncannily similar to Chatur, who memorize things blindly without taking the trouble to go into the depth of a subject or a topic, who view education as nothing more than a means to get a job with a fat paycheck, and who are essentially mean, selfish and materialistic. In fact, a classmate of mine, who has all these less-than-admirable traits, even speaks with the kind of drawl that Chatur does. This classmate is a girl, but other than that, her similarity to Chatur is almost absolute. There ARE people like him in our society, and the film is quite accurate in its depiction of the character. The other actors who must be mentioned are Boman Irani as the malicious Professor Virus, Sanjay Lafont as Pia’s pricetag-obsessed fiancée Suhas, and Parikshit Sahni as Farhan’s father. Shantanu Moitra’s music and Muralitharana’s cinematography also score for the film. There are other things I like about ‘3 Idiots’, but if I continue praising it for too long, people may think that I am biased in favour of it. So, I now move on to its flaws.
2) There are too many unnecessary and tasteless shots of students prancing around in towels or relieving themselves in the bathroom, which somewhat smear the otherwise good first half. But it is in the second half that the film really suffers. As I have said before, I dislike the scene where Pia comes into Rancho’s room drunk; Kareena’s acting in that part is just plain bad. It is also not clear to me why Pia agrees to marry Suhas for the second time after rightly rejecting him (though I must say that I enjoyed the section showing how Farhan and Raju take Pia away on the day of her marriage). And while I found Rancho’s “Aal izz well” cries rather irresistible and charming at first, I thoroughly disliked the way this catchphrase was linked to the baby kicking the mother’s womb every time it was uttered. The entire section on the stealing of the question paper is handled hamhandedly. And as for the childbirth scene, well, what can I say about something this ludicrous? Surely the filmmakers could have found a more plausible way to bring about the conciliation between Rancho and Professor Virus, and to make the latter see the errors of his way? Why resort to such absurdity when the film started off and continued so well for the first half? Why dilute its pertinent messages in this manner?

Abhirup said...

3) Then again, it is easy for us to criticize a film from the comfort of the chair in front of the computer. It is important to remember that our directors and actors are often forced to include slapstick and implausible scenes and dialogues in the films, because more often than not, they operate under a pressure: the producers’ demand that a film must rake in at least thrice the amount that has been spent in making it. And to do that, the filmmaker must ensure that a large number of people come to see the movie. And the crowds do not want to see sensitive, thought-provoking films, or even entertainment films made with good taste: they love the ‘nautanki’ and ‘tamasha’ kind of stuff. So, if a film is to succeed financially, the director simply cannot ignore these considerations. Thus, even in the better films that have been made of late in Bollywood, there are crude/pointless sections included just to attract the masses. This is a necessary (though not desirable) compromise. If the director refuses to do this, he is likely to have trouble finding a financer for his next film. The parallel Indian cinema that developed during the 1970s, pioneered by filmmakers like Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Govind Nihalani, Shyam Benegal, Gulzar and M.S. Sathyu, and actors like Amrish Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil, gave us some of the best films ever made in this country. But the movement petered out within a decade or so, because there was no audience for those types of films, and hence, producers were unwilling to invest in them. Also to be noted, Nagesh Kukunoor is unable to find a distributor for his next film ‘Aashayein’ because nobody thinks that it has the potential to do well at the box-office. Given these facts, can we really blame Hirani and Aamir for their inclusion of the ‘masala’ elements in their film? After all, it was during such scenes as the one showing the childbirth that I heard the loudest cheers and whistles in the hall. And when Rancho was talking about the shortcomings of the education system in the early part of the film, a guy sitting next to me told his friend, “Hey, isn’t this supposed to be a comedy? Why are they bringing in such serious stuff? This is getting boring, man!” That’s the Indian audience for you. So, even when making a film on an important topic like education, some ingredients of lowbrow entertainment must be included for the film to be a hit. Nobody is interested in what Rancho has got to say, unless he can also woo a pretty girl and break into a jig now and then.

Abhirup said...

4) Sir has written in one of his comments, “It is to Aamir Khan’s credit that even within these cramping confines, he keeps trying.” I agree. I would, in fact, go a step ahead and say that not only does he keep trying, he also succeeds to a large extent. Most of his films in the last decade—‘Lagaan’, ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, ‘Rang De Basanti’, ‘Taare Zameen Par’, and even ‘3 Idiots’—are among the best films in mainstream Bollywood. Granted, none of them are flawless. But they at least have interesting, offbeat storylines and memorable characters; the dialogues, situations, and the treatments of the subject matter are mostly far more nuanced and accomplished than the overwhelming majority of Hindi movies; and all of them convey to us a few crucial messages about life and living. To manage all of these, and yet make the films record-breaking blockbusters, is not an easy task in our country, but Aamir has been doing it over and over again. And I cannot not admire the man deeply for this. Yes, the aforementioned films could do without the elaborately choreographed songs, which enhance the visual appeal but halt the flow of the story. Yes, there are scenes of excessive melodrama and tomfoolery in these films, which form jarring contrasts with the more sensitively handled sections and hence should have been edited out. But would the films, then, been as successful as they are? I doubt it. I do hope sincerely that someday, Aamir would make tauter films on worthy subjects, without the unnecessary elements. I do hope that he achieves a finer balance between mass appeal and artistic considerations. But till then, I am willing to be thankful for the films he is giving us. I may not embrace them as unquestioned masterpieces, but I would always praise them for being several rungs above the standard Bollywood fare. Aamir is one of the handful of men in the industry from whom quality stuff can be expected, and may God bless him for it.

Abhirup said...

5) In conclusion, I would like to state that my fondness for ‘3 Idiots’ stems chiefly from the fact that once a viewer manages to wade through the irrelevant parts, the film is, at its core, a very truthful look at the problems of the education system in our country. The obsession with studying engineering (and an ill-veiled contempt at those who do not study science—remember a professor telling Rancho, “If you want to talk in an easily understandable language, you better join a commerce or arts college”?); the habit of parents to force children to join engineering colleges, even if the children want to do something else with their lives (Farhan’s dad represents a very large number of Indian parents); the pressure put upon the students by insensitive, overbearing professors; the discouragement of original thoughts and new ideas; hankering after marks and jobs rather than knowledge—all of these have been dealt with so accurately that it struck a very deep chord with me. Also, I found the film’s call to do what you love, and its central message—“Chase excellence, and success will follow”—inspirational. If even one out of every hundred people who have watched the film remember this message and apply it to their lives, the filmmakers’ efforts shall not go in vain. Otherwise, apart from increasing the bank balance of the producer, the director and the cast, what else can the film be said to have accomplished?

Thanks to everyone who read this long post patiently.

With regards,
Abhirup Mascharak.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

My most heartfelt and admiring thanks, Abhirup. I wonder how many other 'talented' 21-year olds anywhere in the world these days could write as articulate, balanced, informed and substantial a comment as yours. If there are some, I should like them very much indeed to join issue with us here. They don't have to agree with anything I or you have said: they only have to say in an equally cogent and persuasive manner why they disagree.

Archishman said...

Although most of the parents say that they have "seen" and "loved" this movie. I sincerely feel that the moral of this movie has fallen on deaf ears. Yes, I cannot prove right now. But ten years later we will see......we will see, how many "educated" parents of Mother India will ever allow their sons to pursue their passions. As you have always said" India required more than 500 years to even become an intellectual and a developed country"


Suvro Chatterjee said...

I wonder which parents you have been talking to, Archishman. Most of my pupils say their parents had either forgotten the movie within a few days, or advised them not to take it seriously: 'such things happen only in films' was their sage advice. And only last night a couple came over to ask me whether it would be a good idea to put their boy (now going up to class 12) into the FIITJEE classroom coaching program about to commence in Durgapur (the boy attends a tuition every day of the week already, apart from school).

Archishman Sarkar said...

Exactly Sir.We will NEVER change, even if someone brings out the flaws of the system in front of our very eyes.I still remember the proverb you told us "You can take the horse to the water but cannot make it drink." And it is SO true!
I clearly remember the poem " A Psalm Of Life". And this poem has changed how I view "life" completely and, not surprising, some students find the poem a a very boring affair! Not only poems, they won't or better cannot appreciate anything, lost their imagination and power to THINK with video games (I don't play anymore Sir!) and complex double integrals which are not even needed for a class 12 student (thanks to FIITJEE).
Be it 3 Idiots, A Psalm Of Life or anything worth THINKING..... and we are out of the arena. We SEE movies we don't WATCH.
Thanks to you Sir, at least some deserving people who have not got the opportunity to study, to know under you can still hope to Open their eyes via this blog.

Keep writing Sir, we love you.


Shilpi said...

Suvro da,
Since you said that questions too were welcome: I'm still wondering and scratching my head, and after all this while....which part of Ms. Ghose's article did you agree with?
Take care....

Subhajit said...


Would like to say something on this




Suvro Chatterjee said...

To Subhajit:
You should have posted this link on the post I wrote about MBAs ('Monkeys in Armani suits'). But yes, I agree wholly that the entrance tests are more or less a farce; it has been well said that they only test your ability to be tested... and the coaching class racket has further ensured that nothing called real merit is selected nowadays. (I wish, though, that they had a compulsory GK section and an essay to write: the merit list would have changed dramatically!)


I didn't think you'd have to ask. She has said a lot of half-truths, but they are half-truths nevertheless, and they needed to be said, especially when the whole country was going gaga over the movie. And - though this is not Hirani's or Aamir's fault directly, but given the kind of audiences we have, there is, I think, a very real danger that the movie would be interpreted as a clarion call against education per se! and God knows things are in a bad way already without such incitements...

Shilpi said...

Hmm. Sorry Suvro da. I really couldn't figure out what she was talking about or what you were agreeing with. I knew there had to be something but I couldn't see it.

No, I can see how audiences can be driven to assume that it is education itself that must be thrown out....

But Ms. Ghose didn't seem to be talking too much about education per se - the statements came tucked away in a paragraph here and there. And she may as well have approached the topic from that angle and talked less about the hypothetical centres of excellence. If she wanted to critique the movie in the effects that it would have on the masses - then she may as well have said it plain and true.

Take care.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

I'm wondering why no one has yet commented on the contents of the last link I provided...

Suvro Chatterjee said...

That moron who advertised a certain cram shop ('coaching centre') aimed at the IIT-JEE kind of examination here has evidently seen it fit to remove the comment!

Meanwhile such cram shops are proliferating all over India. I personally know a lot of engineers who have discovered it pays far better to 'coach' herds of mindless cattle for such entrance tests than to actually work at engineering jobs. Says a great deal about what they get after graduating from engineering college, doesn't it? How much longer will this utterly senseless craze last, I wonder?... and I am eagerly waiting to find out what sort of changes they are going to make in the IIT-JEE test format, and how the coaching-class industry is going to adapt to them.

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Suvro Chatterjee said...

I must confess to be at a loss here. If somebody could kindly translate...?

Amit parag said...

Now that it has been a few months since 3 Idiots was released, people around me have already forgotten why they liked the movie. Nothing new!

Suvro Chatterjee said...

As you said, Amit, nothing new, and certainly nothing unexpected, given the kind of IQs and attention spans of the typical audience these days.

I often wonder how bad it makes the movie makers feel. Then I reflect that they have adopted the position of 'take the cash, and let the credit go..'! They can have the satisfaction that they tried: whether it had any salutary effect or not is not their headache.

Dipayan G said...

Phew! I finally managed to go through each and every line of each and every comment over here. Time to add mine.

First of all, thank you Raju Hirani,Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Aamir Khan and the entire cast of 3 Idiots (and NOT "Three" Idiots, as Ms Ghose had written) for presenting before us such a unique film, which was both entertaining and educating. At a personal level, this film had quite an impact on me and my thought process, and all I'll say is I'm happy now than I was before. And that means a lot to me.

So, I find that there are a lot of negative responses to this film, which was very, very surprising initially. Everyone into this fault finding business. Tell me, if anyone of you out there can, the names of certain films which should be considered as "flawless"? I'll try to watch them and then I'll tell you the flaws.

Regarding the article written by Ms Ghose and her apparent displeasure at IITs and their teachers and their system being mocked throughout the film, let me tell her that I have friends studying in different IITs across India, in AIIMS and other prestigious medical colleges, in the top colleges of DU and JU, and even in the US, and quite a lot of them tell me that "college sucks!" What I mean to say is, if a certain place is good, only a handful will say it's bad(but their opinion is not to be counted), while if it's actually a dungeon sort of place, then most people will, quite expectedly, not like it. So it's not just about the IITs, you see.

Raju Hirani has put forth a fantastic film before us, which is perfectly in sync with movies like Lage Raho... It depicts the story of three college goers, (for God's sake 'college' goers and not solemn middle-aged men!) so all that toilet humour might actually be very much a part of the movie, rather than the deliberate attempt on the part of the director to commercialize the film. It also reminds us never to take ourselves too seriously, because life can have unexpected twists and turns which can completely dumbfound you. (Read 'The Five People You Meet in Heaven' by Mitch Albom, and you'll know what I'm trying to say.) I actually feel the film was made to deliver a very important message/s in a very relaxed, sometimes poignant, sometimes through "nautanki", and sometimes in an unrealistic manner. Maybe that's why the characters played by Boman Irani and Omi look like grotesque caricatures...

Throughout the film, as has been noted before by one of the comment writers, the profession of engineering has NOT been despised and neither has the institution (the IIT, if you like) been. What has been despised though, is the mentality of certain students, certain teachers, certain households, which, together, have created a flawed 'system'. This flawed system can eat up certain students from the inside (and more often than not, these are the real talented ones), hence they beg for "another chance so that they could grow up once again". Alas, life gives only one chance to do that!

I have seen that most people have interpreted the character of Rancho as a genius. Well, did they forget that genius is 99% perspiration? Did they forget that man was born to produce genius-level work? Or have they become so used to mediocrity that they have, quite unwisely, come to believe that excellency is for the so-called 'geniuses' alone? Or don't they realize that even a saint works very, very hard, and people only dismiss his work as saying they are miracles?

Yes, it's true that the childbirth scene was a misfit in the movie. There could have been a better way of doing that reconciliation/realization of mistake or whatever you might call it. And Pia's character could have been laid out in a better way. Anyway, I'm not qualified enough to be commenting on all this, so I won't, henceforth.

A good movie, nonetheless.

Amit parag said...

In his interview, Satyajit Ray says that his mother was very particular that he should go to a good college so that he can have the best education.
Now mothers send their children to good colleges to buy the best degree.

Soumik Bhattacharyya said...

I was reminded of the following comment (I read it somewhere on Facebook)after reading all this

"My friend passed every exam and scored marks that I could only dream of....Now he is an Engineer at Microsoft and I'm the owner of Microsoft,"

-Bill Gates

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Visiting this post after a long time. Just to put in the observation that our prime minister - no less - has been lamenting over the fact that not one Indian college/university (IITs and IIMs included) is ranked among the top 100 in the world. See also this news report:

Abhishek Anand said...

Respected Sir,

First of all, this is my favourite movie.
Sir, I don't completely agree with many things said by Sagarika Ghose. I do hardly think that 3 Idiots condemns education except for the students with gifted scientific brains. Academics is a very broad scenery, with science being only a tree there.
Additionally, I believe we need better institutions far more than a number of institutions. As you had once stated yourself, Germany does not have as many IITs as India, but more number of inventions.
I do agree with your comment.

Yours faithfully,
Abhishek Anand

Subhrangsu Adhikari said...

I am writing some English in my life after quite a few years. So I expect some flaws in my writing.
At the age of 24 & also having the background of an engineering college, I feel our visualizations of an engineer at the last days of school are very much different. At school many of us dreamt BIG, to achieve something (probably some bank balances, cars, becoming “dumb intellectuals”). We all had visualized Engineers as “Problem Solver in a scientific manner”, generating new ideas, working on those special ideas & probably making some good for our future generations. But the reality is widely different.
At college & also my present job, I feel that most of us do not want to understand. We just feel comfortable using CTRL C & CTRL V. The problem is at the best engineering colleges we are taught the same things (use CTRL C from book & CTRL V on the examination paper). So we cannot expect anything better from the so called “Engineers” like us. Being an engineer has been a shortcut to get a good job, earn some money & it’s over. The guys I have met at my job have come from the so called “premiere institutes” of India & after having a “fascinating” life at the workplace they intend to pursue a MBA or MS. But what is on cards for their future? It’s the same “ever fascinating job” at some different organizations’, the same usage of keyboard shortcuts & we would say us to be highly educated.