“3 Idiots” an Excellent Introduction to Bollywood Cinema

Welcome to Bollywood Gems, a series where I, an experienced Bollywood film viewer, review Bollywood films for quality and beginner friendliness. 


Today, I will be reviewing 3 Idiots, a comic drama that follows two friends as they chase their arrogant but talented college roommate and recall their days together while learning more about his mysterious and inspiring past. 

3 Idiots stands out among its Bollywood peers for its unique plot and emotionally compelling characters, both of which advance its powerful message that life should be about chasing excellence, even when it is not quantifiable. 

Director Rajkumar Hirani makes masterful use of his unique stars and intelligent casting to deliver the film’s message while also giving the audience a good laugh. 

Though it does have flaws, Hirani’s film tells a story that inspires rewatch after rewatch regardless of whether or not you speak Hindi. Therefore, I strongly recommend this film as an introduction for Bollywood beginners.

Although appreciating the film does not require any pre-requisite knowledge of Indian cinema or culture, it would help to keep a few things in mind. The first is that Bollywood movies tend to feature at least three songs in order to transition between themes or plot points. In the case of 3 Idiots, there are five songs. 

Though it does have flaws, Hirani’s film tells a story that inspires rewatch after rewatch regardless of whether or not you speak Hindi. Therefore, I strongly recommend this film as an introduction for Bollywood beginners.”

The other thing to remember is that, in India, grades are the most important part of student life. Because India has a population of nearly 1.38 billion people, colleges focus almost entirely on grades for admission. In the U.S. grades play a large role in college admissions decisions, but in India they are college admissions decisions. In order to get into a competitive college, students typically have to have grades that outpace hundreds of millions of people.

Aside from these few issues, this movie serves as a fantastic introduction to Indian culture and cinema, even for someone with no cultural context. Its humor, message and plot are universally appealing. For these reasons I would give 3 Idiots 4.5 stars in beginner friendliness. 

3 Idiots focuses on the stories of Raju Rastogi, Farhan Quareshi, Chatur Ramalingam and most importantly Ranchoddas S. Chanchad, or Rancho for short. As the movie begins, the audience is introduced to Farhan, Raju and Chatur who, ten years later, have begun their journey across India to find their college friend and Chatur’s rival, Rancho. 

All four characters attended ICE (the Imperial College of Engineering), a fictional top college in India notorious for its intense competition. It is there that the real story is told. 

The movie spends most of its time cutting between Farhan and Raju’s recollections of Rancho in college and their journey to find him after a decade. Through these flashbacks, the movie reveals Rancho’s college antics, profound friendship with Farhan and Raju, personal philosophy and rivalry with Chatur.  

In the late 2000’s, Bollywood college movies focused mostly on college love stories. Although 3 Idiots does have some romance, it focuses more on the deeper lessons learned by its flawed characters. While the film is predictable at times, its unique focus stands out even today. 

A large part of this movie’s success is owed to its incredible cast. Aamir Khan, who plays Rancho, makes an overconfident smart guy endearing. R. Madhavan, who plays Farhan, shows the struggles of a dispassionate engineering student coping with life’s pressures. Sharman Joshi, who plays Raju, dives into his role as a student held back by his own caution. Omi Vaidya, who plays Chatur, becomes a competitive and dislikable antagonist. 

Finally, Boman Irani, who plays the College Dean Viru Sahastrabuddhe, exemplifies the comic absurdity of a strict college dean. I could go on about the intelligent casting of even insignificant roles, or about how each actor played a vital part in bringing this movie together, but I would be writing all day. 

Overall, I give 4.5 stars in beginner friendliness and 4 stars in movie quality.. ”

Casting is one of the strongest aspects in this movie, and I recommend watching this movie to see how it all comes together. Even though you are watching a comedy, it really does feel like a peek into a tense, high-performing college environment. 

The biggest drawback of the movie is that Rancho suffers from, what I call, Perfect Character Syndrome. He is usually the smartest person in the room; he hardly ever loses, and even when he does struggle it doesn’t seem like he, personally, is going to suffer. 

The reason for this is his unnatural confidence and competence. In almost every instance where a problem between him and some authority arises, he finds a way out of it. 

To get around this, Hirani makes use of Rancho’s friends, Farhan and Raju. The plot’s tension doesn’t come from Rancho’s potential failure, but rather the possibility that his friends might get in trouble too. If Rancho gets in trouble with authorities, the audience knows that his friends will suffer too. Thus the tension of the film isn’t sacrificed to Rancho’s perfection. 

Ultimately, 3 Idiots is a fantastic movie and a great way to get started in Bollywood Cinema. I strongly recommend that both newcomers and Bollywood veterans watch it. 

Overall, I would give 4.5 stars in beginner friendliness and 4 stars in movie quality.