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3 Idiots DVD Review

3 Idiots DVD cover art -- click to buy DVD from Amazon.com 3 Idiots
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Rajkumar Hirani / Writers: Rajkumar Hirani, Abhijat Joshi (story, screenplay & dialogues); Vidhu Vinod Chopra (screenplay associate); Chetan Bhagat (uncredited - novel Five Point Someone: What Not to Do at IIT)

Cast: Aamir Khan (Ranchoddas "Rancho" Shamaldas Chanchad), Kareena Kapoor (Pia Sahastrabuddhe), R. Madhavan (Farhan Qureshi), Sharman Joshi (Raju Rastogi), Omi Vaidya (Chatur "Silencer" Ramalingam), Boman Irani (Viru "Virus" Sahastrabuddhe), Mona Singh (Mona Sahastrabuddhe), Jaaved Jaaferi (Ranchoddas Shamaldas Chanchad), Pareekshit Sahani (Mr. Qureshi), Sanjay Lafont (Suhas Tandon), Rahul Kumar (Man "Millimeter" Mohan), Amardeep Jha (Mrs. Rastogi), Farida Dadi (Mrs. Qureshi), Mukund Bhatt (Mr. Rastogi), Chaitali Bose (Raju's Sister), Jayant Kriplani (Campus Interview Panel Head), Aron Baali (Shamaldas Chanchad), Shoaib Ahmed (Chhote), Dushyant Wagh (Centimeter), Ali Fazal (Joy Lobo)

US Theatrical Release: December 23, 2009 / Running Time: 171 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Songs: "Behti Hawa Sa Tha Woh", "Give Me Some Sunshine", "Aal Izz Well", "Zoobi Doobi", "Jaane Nahin Denge Tujhe"

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 (English/Hindi)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
DVD Release Date: April 26, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $22.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase

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If you're like me and most Americans, you don't see all that many Indian films. As such, certain questions surround 3 Idiots. Two of the more pressing ones: Why are the title characters, college students for much of the film, played by actors in their thirties and forties? And why, at 171 minutes, does this run twice as long as American comedies?
I don't have an answer for the first question, although I suspect the leads were cast more for their appeal than their age, and it helps that they look more youthful than their biographies claim. As for that runtime, that just appears to be the Bollywood way. Indian films tend to be longer and more flamboyant than their Western counterparts, allowing time for energetic musical numbers with a tone sometimes strikingly different from what's around them.

3 Idiots opens in what we can assume is the present day as two college friends reunite with a nemesis for a predestined showdown long forgotten. One of the reunion's participants, the third and most significant "idiot" is missing and we learn that nobody has seen or heard from him in years. One of his pals assumes the role of narrator, as he takes us back ten years to the past sequences that make up the bulk of this long film. Ranchoddas Shamaldas Chanchad (Aamir Khan), "Rancho" for short, shows up at the elite Imperial College of Engineering ready to question authority. He makes that known when he shuns the upperclassmen's traditional hazing ritual of humiliating freshmen stripped down to their underwear. Rancho uses his mechanical genius to turn a message-sending door urination against the assailant.

That incident earns Rancho the reputation of a freethinker and he brings that to the classroom alongside his friends Raju (Sharman Joshi) and Farhan (R. Madhavan). Rancho's demeanor threatens his professors and raises the wrath of the school's stern dean, Viru Sahastrabudhhe (Boman Irani), easily nicknamed "Virus." Virus is relentless in pushing ICE's students to excel with vigorous testing, on whose results he places the utmost importance. Rancho challenges these rat race principles, all the while breezing through his academic work. His fellow "idiots" don't have it as well. Narrator Farhan has to suppress his photographer ambitions to appease his career-oriented father, while Raju stems from a very poor family with a paralyzed father, putting much weight on the son's shoulders.

Not one to defer to authority, Rancho (Aamir Khan) challenges his engineering professor's wordy definition of "machine." ICE's high-powered director Viru "Virus" Sahastrabudhhe (Boman Irani) is not amused by Rancho's lesson.

With nearly three hours of movie, you imagine there's some time for romance and indeed there is. Rancho takes a liking to Pia (Kareena Kapoor), a young wealthy doctor who happens to be the daughter of Virus. More than once, Rancho seizes an opportunity to reveal to Pia the shallowness of her affluent, image-driven suitors.

3 Idiots bounces between the past and the present, not always clear in the passage of time. In the present, Raju, Farhan, and linguistically-challenged student Chatur (Omi Vaidya), nicknamed "Silencer" and still bitter over an embarrassing speech Rancho and his buddies tricked him into giving, hunt for the elusive Rancho, their search mysteriously leading them to a rich man who answers to his name but clearly isn't him.

Indian cinema operates in different ways than what Americans are accustomed to (rendering dubious the rear cover's claim that this is "in the tradition of Ferris Bueller's Day Off"). In the US, there is a reluctance to blur genres, even those as fundamental as comedy and drama. The types of movies that attempt such things typically receive critical acclaim but limited release. 3 Idiots, on the other hand, became the highest-grossing film in Bollywood history, widely surpassing the former champ, the 2008 Hindi action film Ghajini starring Khan and inspired by Christopher Nolan's Memento. As in the US, the record books in India (where official box office numbers are not published) do skew heavily to contemporary fare.

What's a Bollywood movie without a little song and dance romance? Rancho (Aamir Khan) woos Pia (Kareena Kapoor) under a big moon in the musical number "Zoobi Doobi." Fed a bum translation by the idiots, Chatur "The Silencer" (Omi Vaidya) delivers an off-color Teacher's Day speech, whose embarrassment he looks to avenge ten years later.

3 Idiots is a highly scattershot film. It is way cornier than any modern American movie. It moves from silliness to sentimentality without abandon. One minute we're watching drunken peeing pranks (urination is repeatedly an object of fascination to the movie), and the next there is a nearly-successful suicide attempt. Then all of a sudden, there is song and dance or original music with lyrics declaring exactly what's happening. I imagine less specific versions of what I'm describing could be applied to many Bollywood movies. And the general public there seems to appreciate such stylings, for the Mumbai-based industry is regularly said to be thriving.

I'm able to enjoy this movie as something different from the norm, but artistically I can't say it competes with the more subtle and realistic films celebrated in the US.
And yet, in India, 3 Idiots received accolades to match its general popularity. It won Bollywood's top honor, the Filmfare award for Best Movie, as well as Best Director (Rajkumar Hirani), Best Supporting Actor (Virus portrayer Irani), and Best Story, in addition to various other pertinent nominations.

In the US, 3 Idiots opened two days before Christmas 2009 and went onto gross a plenty respectable $6.5 million in just 156 theaters. That made it India's second highest-grossing film here (behind Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding) and currently one of the 40 best-performing foreign language films to boot. That is a most impressive showing for something that must have just barely missed the radars of the general public stateside, where its 12th place opening ranked it between The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Robert Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol, both several weeks into their runs and remaining in over ten times as many theaters.

The three idiots -- Raju (Sharman Joshi), Rancho (Aamir Khan), and Farhan (R. Madhavan) -- are surprised to see a familiar and intimidating face at the wedding they crash.

Taking far longer than most contemporary films to journey from theaters to home video, 3 Idiots made its Region 1 DVD debut at the end of April, sixteen months after its North American big screen opening, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Though I doubt that you or anyone you know has seen the movie, it's put up decent sales rank numbers on Amazon and has received largely favorable reviews from Americans there and on IMDb, where its rating places it fourth among all 2009 releases, trailing only Inglourious Basterds, Up, and the Oscar-winning Argentine drama The Secret in Their Eyes.


3 Idiots appears in 2.35:1 widescreen and is, of course, enhanced for 16:9 displays. Picture quality is pretty good, but it does suffer from interlacing and some slight blurriness, both probably stemming from the film being shot on different cameras than American standards. There is some room for improvement and those who have been spoiled by Blu-ray, a format on which this wasn't released, likely will be underwhelmed.

The film is presented in a curious but common blend of Hindi and English, alternating between the two languages sometimes within the same sentence. The default subtitles give us all the dialogue in English, even the parts spoken in English (on occasion, slightly differing from what's said). The spelling of the English translations is perfect, as is the grammar, save for the lack of periods, which are left off of isolated statements. In one instance, the dialogue appeared to be missing, but the subtitles remained present. It seems bizarre to me that a general population can follow the shift from one language to another, but statistics show that 10% of India speaks English (making it second in the world by number of English speakers).

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is satisfyingly vivacious and not only in the musical sequences. One pulled lamp provides a dynamic surround effect and in many other places, atmosphere is appreciated.

While snow falls outside in Ladakh, the cast passes the time with a board game. Aamir Khan's spirits run high as film runs low in "100% Idiots." Kareena Kapoor describes finding Pia's look, chiefly with a pair of glasses in "Making of Miss Idiot."


3 Idiots is joined by four featurettes, each letterboxed and for the most part delivered in English.
First and longest, the 10-minute "Making of 3 Idiots: Idiots in Ladakh" deals less with the film's making and more with inclement weather rendering it unable to be made. Cast and crew pass the time with games, only to return a year later to shoot the necessary scenes.

The 3-minute "Making of Aal Izz Well" details the shooting of the central musical sequence, for which director Rajkumar Hirani was under the weather.

"100% Idiots" (4:30) documents the film's drunken nighttime sequence, shot with film running out and the cast supposedly genuinely intoxicated.

Finally, "Making of Miss Idiot" (3:15) deals with glamorous leading lady Kareena Kapoor, mostly focusing on the look established for her character.

The main menu runs some of the livelier clips from the movie in pieces among engineering formulas, while submenus take the usual silent, static approach. Interestingly, no trailer for 3 Idiots or any other Fox property is provided here. There is neither slipcover above nor insert within the basic black Eco-Box keepcase, whose spine prominently suffers from the peeling plastic remnants of other Fox and MGM DVD cases.

Complete candor may hurt Raju's (Sharman Joshi) chances at this important job interview. The low grades, juvenile criminality, and mental instability probably don't help either. Rancho's life philosophy is embraced in the colorful song "Aal Izz Well" ("All is Well").


3 Idiots earned rave reviews and record grosses in its native India and, to some degree, public and critical approval followed it around the globe. That sort of makes it like India's Avatar and it's even being likewise distributed by Fox in the US. But though it rivals James Cameron's environmental epic in length, the film's storytelling is grounded more in humanity, comedy, music, romance, and palatable antiestablishmentism. While I wasn't crazy about Avatar, I'm even less impressed by Idiots, which is reasonably engaging but also melodramatic, mawkish, and crude. It's impossible to watch the movie rooting for the villainous director, objecting to the not so subversive idealism, or hoping that the stormy climactic makeshift birthing scene ends badly. Such a design seems terribly easy to conceive and execute, appealing to basic tastes with modest sophistication. I can't question those who are diverted by it; all I can wonder is why this feel-good entertainment doesn't make me feel very good.

Fox's DVD does an admirable job of presenting the movie in its original bilingual form with good subtitles allowing easy comprehension. The 20 minutes of featurettes strangely seem more to dance around and complain about production than to take us inside it, but they still make for decent company to a film many will like.

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Reviewed June 11, 2011.

Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2009 Reliance Big Pictures, Vinod Chopra Films, and 2011 Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
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