What was wrong with the 3 Idiots’ story?

As mentioned in my earlierr post, I would like to use the story of the 3 Idiots movie as a case study to understand how to build a convincing story for your written and oral communications as well as how to avoid the mistakes that others make while telling their story.

I am obsessed with the idea of building a convincing story for all my written and oral communications. In fact, I have written a book titled “80-20 rule of communicating your ideas effectively” on the subject. I have also talked about this topic in one of the previous issues of my management magazine – Management Talk. I will use the story of 3 Idiots to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the story of this movie or what was right or wrong with it as it relates to building a convincing story for your oral and written communication.

Let us first look at what were the strengths of the script in terms of the story. The movie started with a flash back with Aamir Khan applying a simple rule of physics to protect himself from a ragging senior. The example was good and it set the stage for the theme of the story. The best scene in the movie according to me which established the theme of the movie was where Aamir Khan gives a long definition of a book implying that we need to focus on understanding of the concepts and not depend on rote learning. Another good example was when the Chatur (the comedian student) delivers a speech by rote learning without understanding the meaning of what he was saying and lands himself into trouble.

However, there were serious diversions in the story. First, after a point, the story became a story about “friendship” rather than about its education theme. Aamir Khan trying to save one of his friends, Raju, from failing the exams by stealing the exam paper from the principal’s room was totally inconsistent with the theme of the movie as well as with the character of the role that Aamir was playing. While I was watching this episode in the movie, I was praying that the 3 Idiots don’t actually end up cheating as that would ruin the theme completely. Thank God, they didn’t.

Also, quarter of the movie was devoted to finding Aamir and getting Karena to marry him. This was another sequence in which the theme was of friendship which had nothing to do with the main theme of the movie, that is, what is wrong with our education system and how to improve the delivery of education in our country.

In addition, the act of pissing on the door of the principal’s house or ending up with a hang over in class were acts which were inconsistent with the theme of the movie as well as with the character of the role that Aamir was playing. These acts ultimately end up in one of them, Raju, attempting suicide after being suspended from college. Was this about education? Was it about changing the way education is delivered? I doubt it.

Further, I know a lot of you are going to kill me when I say that the phrase “All is well” used in the movie made no sense because the song based on it was popular. First of all, I didn’t understand the meaning as expressed in the movie. If the script writer was saying “Don’t worry, be happy,” then he didn’t reflect it in his script very well. If “All is well,” then there was no need for Aamir to resort to stealing the exam paper. If he was convinced about his take on education, then he didn’t have to steal the exam paper for Raju. He should have assumed that if Raju had understood the concepts well, he would clear the exam irrespective of how difficult the exam was.

Ultimately the objective of the story was to prove that by focusing on the understanding of the concepts rather than rote learning would make an individual more successful in life. However, this was not shown with respect to the two friends of Aamir, that is, Raju and Farhan. One of the friends didn’t get a job because of his understanding of the scientific and engineering concepts or their application but rather based on his honesty.

Lastly, I think the delivery of the child and finally the saving of the child’s life with the “All is well” phrase literally killed the story or what was left of it. This was the climax scene where all the credit should have been given to the understanding and application of scientific and engineering concepts to solve problems as well as to innovate but the script writer gave credit to a phrase, the meaning of which was also not very clear.

As you can see, there were too many “beaches” of the Salman Khan type where he usually lands up with a girl in his arms and tearing his shirt apart irrespective of what the story is all about. To know more about the “beaches,” you will have to read my book 80/20 Rule of Communicating Your Ideas or the previous issue of Management Talk.

Now if I was the script writer, what would I have done? Very simple, I would have stayed focused on the theme of what is wrong with our educational system and how to improve it. First, I would have stayed away from the above mentioned “beaches.” Some of the things I would have done to make the script strong are as follows:

(a) Aamir’s success as a result of his focus on learning the basics was brought out quite well in the end. However, the same was not true of his two friends, Raju and Farhan. I think the need to show that Raju and Farhan benefited from Aamir’s way of learning was more important than that of Aamir. Raju and Farhan were surrogates of the audience who the film makers wanted to convince that the proposed system of education would work for them. There should have been more examples of how Raju and Farhan applied what they had learned in their job and profession to achieve success.

Some of you might think that how can a photographer use engineering and scientific concepts to improve quality of his photographs? Well, how about using engineering and scientific concepts to come up with new ways to use lighting to improve the quality of photographs.

(b) The climax scene of saving the kid would have been focused on application of scientific and engineering concepts. “All is well” would have been completely eliminated from this scene.

(c) Pissing scene, hang over scene, suspension scene and suicide of Raju would be completely eliminated.

I hope you have understood where all the story of 3 Idiots went wrong. It was not focused. It had a number of irrelevant scenes and story sequences which were not consistent with its original theme. “All is well” was redundant. It didn’t have any connection with the story except that the unborn child kicked when he hears it or starts crying and breathing immediately after he is born. I do hope you have gained some insight as to how to develop your own story for written and oral communications. Remember, a convincing story has to be focused, sequential, logical and without any irrelevant and redundant content.

Avinash Narula

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Comments

3 idiot was really a great story why you want to make it boring with your stupid ideas.

Reply

Avinash Narula Reply:

Hi!

Just making a general remark that it was a great story is not enough. You need to give your arguments with logic.

I have already stated that I cannot argue with a success story like 3 idiots. I was just using it as a learning tool as to how to develop a convincing story.

I would be happy to hear your arguments.

thanks

avinash

Reply

You’re ignoring the larger, social context of the film. Part of “3 Idiots” is addressing the education system, but it’s also critiquing the culture that fuels said system–it’s analyzing life as well, brother.

And the point about the film not showing Raju and Farhan using Rancho’s learning methods in their own professions isn’t necessary. Rancho’s point is that he LOVES engineering and that’s why he’s good at it. He’s not trying to study so he can get a grade. He’s slaking curiosity. By extension, if Raju and Farhan pursue what they love they too will be successful. The point isn’t to learn a certain way, it’s to live the best way for you.

The suicide scene is symbolic of death before rebirth. One can’t change until one abandons the old ways. Raju was stuck and couldn’t move forward. He acts out and pisses on the door. When he’s faced with expulsion, he tries to kill himself. The fact that he saw no other options says a lot about the culture of India. Yes, it’s melodramatic because he recovers. But it’s not unnecessary. This is the climactic moment for Raju’s character and leads to his future success. When he recovers, he’s a changed man. Raju’s storyline is basically that of “Fight Club”: a man destroying himself to be born again.

How he comes out of coma is corny and ridiculous and I have problems with it. But not with Raju attempting suicide.

The birth scene stretched plausibility for me. But, I liked that it demonstrated the skill of the students. And also the symbolism of the baby responding to “all is well” (regardless of how stupid it is). It’s saying “all is well” is the phrase the next generation will respond to. Not “be an engineer” or “bottom line earnings” or “maximization”. But something simple and calming. Something that doesn’t build pressure but releases it.

Cheers

Reply

Avinash Narula Reply:

Hi!

Actually, I didn’t ignore the effort to highlight the fault in our education system. Th reason I went to see the movie was because of this reason. A dialoque in the promo as mentioned in my earlier blog. I believe if Aamir would have removed the unnecessary “corny” and “stupid” stuff as you yourself have stated, the story would have become more believable and strong. I am not a movie critic. I am a story teller. You will agree with me that in a good story, unnecessary “corny” and “stupid” stuff has no place. There can’t be contradictions. For instance, Gandhiji’s struggle didn’t have a single instance where he advocated voilence which make his concept of non-voilence believable. If he mixed it with voilence, even one incident, Gandhiji’s story would have gone for a toss.

thanks for your very analytical comment.

avinash narula

Reply

the 3 idiot movie is so nice!! It makes one of the main character genius in order that the audience amaze at the first glance and so therefore, catch their attention in the entire movie.

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