IDIOTs in vogue?
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Febuary 2010

IDIOTs in vogue?

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We don’t need no education; we don’t need no thought control; no dark sarcasm in the classroom; teacher, leave those kids alone – The Wall by Pink Floyd

Just think if Lata Mangeshkar’s father had not permitted her to sing, or Sachin Tendulkar was restricted from playing cricket. What would they have been doing? It is said that one’s life is all about listening to the heart and chasing own dreams. 3 IDIOTS, the award winning and record breaking film by Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra conveys the message of pursuing dream and education in one’s life.

Demystifying the myths

3 IDIOTS is about three engineering students who believe in ‘I’ll Do It On my Terms’ and that’s what the three characters achieve in life. The film begins with the entry of the three central characters in an elite engineering college where the ‘boys-will-have-fun’ myth is featured in disguise of humour and joke throughout the story telling where the glaring anomalies in our education system has been widely criticised.

“It’s a very well-made film with a message and with a big star. It brings back memories of people’s experience of the education system in India,” says Taran Adarsh, eminent movie reviewer, on the film’s overseas success. The success of ‘3 Idiots’ is just the tip of the iceberg, criticise experts. Though 3 Idiots is thoroughly enjoyable and humorous, the core of the film has fetched criticism on what it says about the future of India’s youth and the “rat race” for joining centres of excellence to study or teach in them.

Every child in our society is not as gifted as Mangeshkar or Tendulkar, and most of the them end up living his father’s dream at an engineering institution or a medical college. In the film, Aamir Khan’s critical argument runs across on our highly institutionalised education system with the underlying message of serious indictment in that. The film also shows a student committing suicide at the beginning raising a pertinent question: Was it suicide or murder?

In the media reports, the director himself revealed that like in ‘3 Idiots’, he had tried hard to convince his father about his desire to pursue film-making. Therefore, according to him, pursuing one’s dreams is very essential, provided it is backed with proper education.

Story and Characters  The THREE IDIOTS ON SCREEN
In the fi lm, the three idiots, Rancchoddas Shyamaldas Chanchad (Aamir Khan), Raju Rastogi (Sharman Joshi) and Farhan Qureshi (R Madhavan), are perfect archetypes of the new age
Indian who is essentially a non-conformist, questioning outmoded given premises, choosing to live life on his own terms and chartering new roads that consciously skirt the rat race due to societal or parental pressure – but refuse to become cogs in the wheel. Naturally, they end up
as the Frostian hero (Robert Frost’s Road Not Taken) who made all the difference to his life, and the world, by taking the road less travelled. The campus here could be any Indian college. Usually a dreaded professor, referred to by his initials or acronym, walks around to dry you out of any interest in learning. Rancho points out India’s education system as competitive, high-prssure, rote-heavy, illogical and almost cruel and tutors the audiences through the
messages guiding his friends that says one should follow his heart’s calling if they want to make a difference, having a choice to spend an entire life doing what he likes. The message is no less relevant for the metropolitan youth who are crippled by a despotic disregard for their natural creativity and run after Engineering and medicine like Raju and Farhan who enter the elite engineering college, only to be taught through books and classrooms and not the lessons of life. Not surprisingly, this rote-learning, even from India’s best institutions, produces more of a bureaucracy to serve the corporate and fi nancial sector, rather than producing original thinkers. In the fi lm Sharman Joshi’s character Raju represents the lonely hope for lower income group India, craving only for professional degrees, preferably engineering, to support his family. Madhavan as the third ‘idiot’, who  wanted to be a wildlife photographer takes admission into Imperial College of Engineering, which for him and many
others in this country is a ticket to “neighbour’s envy, parent’s pride” territory. Principal Viru Sahastrabuddhe known as Virus, venerating the cuckoo whose life begins with murder, denotes the high level of stress and competition, to reach the top. He praises students like Chatur (Omi) who end up as conformists for becoming successful, portraying the likes
of the eventual winners.
INDIAN EDUCATION TODAY  – WHAT SAYS 3 IDIOTS
3 IDIOTS belongs to everyone. On the whole, the fi lm has tremendous youth appeal and feel-good factor to work in a big way in delivering the underlying message to our social system. Idiot 1 – Education System: Which is mainly performance-oriented with its
focus on scoring high marks and too much of emphasis on examinations forcing students to learn by rote rather than encouraging depth understanding. In the fi lm Rancho (Aamir Khan) goes beyond the book to gain mastery. Idiot 2 – Teachers: Faculty-led fi xed curriculum based pedagogy where the teacher gives no room to the students to convey originality. Boman Irani as Viru Sahastrabuddhe portrays it.  Idiot 3 – Parents: They pressurise children to take up courses according to their own choice rather than their child’s. In the fi lm the Quereshis and the poorer Rastogis portrays typical Indian parents.

THE EFFECT
In an elective course called ‘Learning What is Not Taught’ the faculty at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) decided to follow 3 Idiots, adopting the line of teaching
students to learn about life from beyond the textbooks and curriculum. According to media reports, Executive Director of Tata Sons Ltd R Gopalakrishnan, the lead faculty of LNWT says, “What the students learn in the classrooms is only the beginning of learning. The rest of the lessons are to be learnt from what life teaches them.” According to a report by Hindustan
Times, 3 Idiots also triggers attention in some institutions in Punjab. Some of the dialogues of Rancho and their purpose have been rephrased as remarks on answer sheets of postgraduate students in a Ludhiana college. “Education is the ultimate objective,” and “learning to apply
theoretical knowledge is essential” are some of those remarks. At a Government Primary School in Ludhiana, teacher Ravinder Kaur convinced her colleagues to contribute Rs 500 each to install audiovisual aids in the classroom. A.P. Singh, who teaches mathematics
at Malwa Central College of Education in Ludhiana, has started giving good marks to students who had reproduced what they had excerpted from textbooks acknowledging the students’ effort.
PERCEPTION AND REALITY
The indifferent assembly-line approach of our current education is not enabling students to cope up in the world and that is what the 3 idiots’ message says. Because education is always developing one’s mind and soul and not just only learning by rote, conveys the fi lm.

But there are winds from opposite direction as well. According to Sagarika Ghose, eminent columnist and journalist, the fi lm is perhaps a better refl ection of the vast number of engineering colleges mushrooming across India, which are indeed soul-less factories where real education is substituted for cramming. According to her, the fi lm establishes that
unless one is a naturally gifted scientifi c enius like Ranchordas Chanchad, there’s no point wasting time with your books. Then one is better off singing songs or becoming a wildlife photographer. “If we continue to lose our minds over fi lms like 3 Idiots, we will soon become
a nation of idiots and will have to hire foreign brains to do our thinking for us because we will be wallowing in hatred of the system and escapist pleasure. Do we want to bring up children on the notion that the education system is idiotic and  deserves to be screwed?” argues Ghose
in her column. Criticisms are there that ‘Three Idiots’ encourages to throw away books and
whose central message is “the education system sucks”, “we learn nothing at our centres of excellence” and “teachers are unable to teach and only want to ruin students lives,” saying that the fi lm is dangerously juvenile. Of course, there is a need for reform. Of course, there is a need to urgently relieve the pressure and strain – The pressure that comes from the huge number of students applying for too few IITs, too few medical colleges and too few quality
universities and the diabolical teachers and emotionally blackmailing parents. herefore, there is a need to relook at our education system, ensure that parents do not pressurise children. But in the pursuit of educational reform, the standards of excellence should neither
be compromised upon nor should we engage in an escapist fantasy and convince ourselves that education does not matter. In the fi lm as depicted, Rancho was a genius. But in reality every student is not genius, there is no short cuts for them in excellence for higher education.
Everything said and done, there is no denying the fact that the Indian education system as it stands today does not adequately equip the students to ask “why – what – where – when?”. It
teaches students how to answer well but in today’s complex world, asking the rightquestions is of paramount importance.  Given a problem, we can solve it very well but when it comes to identifying a problem, even students from premier institutes lag behind. The education  system needs to correct that. Also, inline  ith the fact “everyone is not a genius”, it is also equally true that “everyone does not need to get into an IIT”. There should be other rewarding avenues identifi ed for the masses who are “non-genius”. Meaningful vocational training coupled with an acceptance by the society which could only stem from dignity of labour
would go a long way in making the masses idolise idiots. This is particularly true for a country like India where the job market is unable to adequately reward even the highest degree in general education, a Ph.D.

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