2009 / Rajkumar Hirani > There’s an easy explanation as to why 3 Idiots is easily the highest grossing film in Bollywood history, almost doubling the box office receipts of its nearest competitor: The film defines generations of Indians (and South Asians in general) and is relevant now more than ever. On the surface, it’s just a fun film with quite a lot of predictability, cheesy moments and phoned-in laughs. But the thematics of a generation lost to examinations and monetary success are rooted deep within the culture’s bones. Most Indian students, male or female, know the pressure of success in one of the world’s toughest educational marketplaces, the fight for a spot in elite private schools, combating parental pressure and the selflessness this all carries.
Dreams are often tertiary to jobs and family, but in 3 Idiots, Hirani has offered a glimpse of hope to the Indian youth. Chances are it will have little effect on how families work, how parents push their children to the edge, but the exploration, in all its glossiness, is a worthy cause that’s obviously been taken to heart by the country’s moviegoers. As long as it’s not taken out of context and mistreated as an Indian equivalent of Dead Poets Society, there is much satisfaction to be had. And who knew Aamir Khan (whose Memento-derived Ghajini holds that second all-time spot) could so convincingly play a college student at age 44?