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Revisiting 3 Idiots: Rajkumar Hirani’s satire on the Indian education system completes 13 years of release

In a world where work from home is the norm, and discourses on the negative impacts of the productivity culture are finally beginning, 3 Idiots’ stance seems even more relevant.

  • Pratishruti Ganguly

  • OTTplay

Last Updated: 11.32 AM, Dec 22, 2021

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Rajkumar Hirani’s 3 Idiots has come to attain cult status in Hindi mainstream cinema. After all, the movie held the record of raking in the highest footfalls during the release weekend for any Indian film until that point. Its record-shattering commercial success aside, the film also touched the raw nerve — that of the Indian youth.

3 Idiots, like Hirani’s earlier directorials Munna Bhai MBBS and Lage Raho Munna Bhai, spotlights a social peril, teetering dangerously close to being didactic, yet carrying the film forward with its nimble humour. In 3 Idiots, while the humour stays intact, the profoundness of its subject matter threatens to overshadow Hirani’s otherwise cheery tone. Within the first 20 mins of the film, a student dies by suicide after being unable to meet the draconian expectations of his family, his institute and of himself.


The film is a biting satire on the Indian education system, and how, despite differing personalities and styles of learning, even the most premium educational institutes in the country churn out purported geniuses in assembly-line production. Loosely inspired by Chetan Bhagat’s bestseller Five Point Someone, 3 Idiots takes characterisation several notches higher by taking care to define the three protagonists of this tale. Although Aamir Khan is the biggest male star in the movie, both the characters of R Madhavan (Farhan Qureshi) and Sharman Joshi (Raju Rastogi) are etched out to perfection.

In order to better explain the correlation between education and economics, the characters are presented as belonging to three different social strata. Rancho (Aamir Khan) is supposedly the scion of a wealthy family in Shimla, Farhan’s father is a retired employee, who aspires to see his son bag a six-figure salary so that he can boast about his achievements to his neighbours. For Raju, bagging a job is not just a chip on the shoulder, it is a necessity. His father is paralysed, and his mother’s meagre salary as a school teacher barely covers their daily expenditures.


Viru Sahasrabudhe (Boman Irani), or Virus as he is called, embodies all the problems plaguing the Indian education system, discouraging free thinking or free will, and throttling any conversation surrounding change. Virus revels in being archaic, staunch and routine. He has maximised productivity by supplanting buttons with velcro, a necktie for its hook version, and trained himself to be ambidextrous. Virus’ obsession with timeliness is further realised when in an emotionally charged scene, he reveals he returned to work a day after his son died by suicide.


In a world where work from home is the norm, and discourses on the negative impacts of the productivity culture are finally becoming loud and clamorous, 3 Idiots’ stance seems even more relevant. However, what the film also succeeds in highlighting is that sometimes, the only way to break out of the hamster wheel of poverty is to follow the rules. Cleverly, it is Farhan’s middle-class character who is shown to have a passion outside of his curriculum, not Raju. This begs the question, had Raju had the same opportunities as Farhan and Rancho, would we have chosen to become an engineer?

3 Idiots is not just entertainment in a cup of tea. Some of the jokes around Chatur Ramalingam (Omi Vaidya)’s accent and lack of Hindi knowledge seem rather tone-deaf in a 21st century context, but for the most part, the film is incisive and thought-provoking, while being relentlessly fun.

Watch 3 Idiots here

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