The 3 Idiots
The 3 Idiots is a story of friendship, and the pursuit of success. It involves 3 engineering students thrown into an education system where success is given more importance than excellence.
The 3 friends are Farhan Qureshi, Raju Rastogi, and Ranchoddas “Rancho” Shamaldas Chanchad. They are roommates in the residence of Imperial College of Engineering (ICE) in India.
Farhan pursues engineering because of his father’s wishes but his passion is wildlife photography. Raju studies engineering to get his family out of poverty. Rancho studies engineering because he wants to learn, he is passionate about machines.
The Director of ICE is Dr. Viru Sahastrabuddhe called “Virus” by the students. On the first day, Virus shows the freshmen students an astronaut pen that scientists have spent millions to invent because ordinary fountain pens and ballpoint pens do not work in outer space. As a student, his school Director has given him the pen which symbolizes excellence.
He is going to pass the pen on to an exceptional student but he has waited in vain for 32 years. He challenges them to win his pen.
Rancho asks Virus, “Sir, if pens do not work in outer space, why did the astronauts not use a pencil? They would have saved millions.”
Virus is stumped and that perhaps is the beginning of his animosity toward Rancho. Rancho is often sent out of the class room and called an idiot because he gives practical answers instead of definitions from textbooks. Since Farhan and Raju are his friends, they become the 3 idiots.
But when thrown out of one class, Rancho slips into another. He does not mind what class he attends, as long as he learns from it.
Farhan, Raju, and Rancho
One of the film’s highlights is the first time Farhan and Raju meet Rancho. It is a campus tradition that freshmen in their underwear pay respects to the seniors. When Rancho walks in with his bags and luggage, one senior focuses on him. Rancho gets into his room but the senior threatens to pee on his door if he does not come out. Rancho makes some kind of electric contraption and when the senior pees on the door, he gets an electric shock and rolls on the floor in pain.
Joy Lobo is another student in ICE who has a passion for machines. Virus refuses to extend the submission deadline for his project and he cannot graduate. He commits suicide and Rancho blames the system for his death, earning Virus’ wrath.
The 3 idiots unknowingly crash the wedding of Virus’ daughter where Rancho meets Pia, Virus’ other daughter who is a medical student. Virus calls Farhan and Raju to his office and advises them to stay away from Rancho if they want to graduate. Raju decides to avoid Rancho and moves into Chatur’s room.
Chatur Ramalingan, a nerd born in Uganda believes in mindless memorization of definitions from textbooks. Chatur wants to succeed by putting others down. As fellow students cram for exam, he slips pornographic magazines under their doors to distract them from studying.
Chatur is assigned to deliver a speech on Teacher’s Day. To impress Virus, he asks the librarian to write a speech in Hindi for him to memorize. Rancho wants to show Raju what mindless memorization can do, so he changes some words in the speech. Chatur did not understand a word in his speech and humiliates Director Virus and the Minister of Education in front of the whole school.
Raju did not even get it and continues to avoid Rancho. A drunk Chatur challenges Rancho to meet him in ten years to see who is more successful between the two of them.
When Rancho helps save Raju’s father, Raju realizes that he is a good friend, and they become buddies again. Also, the love story of Rancho and Pia starts. Like all Bollywood movies, a dance sequence is squeezed into the film. Rancho and Pia dance through the rain, and against the sky with the huge silver moon in the background.
The 3 idiots stay with Raju’s father in the hospital even with an exam the following morning, so they have taken the exam 30 minutes late.
When the exam results come out, Farhan is last and Raju is a rank higher. When they cannot find Rancho’s name, they feel bad. But when they learn that he is in number one, they feel worse.
That day, they have learned a lesson in human behavior which states that “when your friend fails, you feel bad but when your friend tops, you feel worse.”
As the movie unfolds, the 3 Idiots get involved in an unsavory activity and Raju gets caught. Virus blackmails Raju to incriminate Rancho or be expelled from school. Rather than betray his friend, Raju jumps from Virus’ office and slips into a coma. His friends stay by his side until he has come out of coma.
Even before they can graduate, Virus has found a chance to expel the 3 Idiots. As they leave the school, a storm is raging. Virus’ pregnant daughter Mona gets into labor and no ambulance is available due to the storm.
The 3 Idiots find a way to help Mona. Through online video, Pia coaches Rancho, and with his friends and some students, and in the presence of Virus, Rancho is able to deliver Mona’s baby successfully in spite of the power outage. Rancho has put his engineering knowledge into practical use.
As Rancho leaves, Virus runs after him. He reminds Rancho of his question on the first day of school and tells Rancho that astronauts can not use a pencil because if a pencil tip breaks, it would float in zero gravity and it can get into an astronaut’s eye or nose, and it can even get into the instruments. To Rancho’s surprise, the astronaut pen has been passed on to him, and the 3 idiots earn a reprieve from expulsion.
With Rancho’s encouragement, Farhan tells his father that he wants to quit engineering to pursue wildlife photography. His father finally gives in. Rancho also persuades Raju to believe in himself rather than put his fate on his many gods. Raju decides to free himself from fear, goes to a job interview and gets the job.
On graduation day, Rancho is awarded Student of the Year. After graduation rites, he leaves and disappears.
Ten Years Later
Ten years pass. Chatur has not forgotten his challenge to Rancho. He meets with Farhan, a successful wildlife photographer, and Raju who is married and living well. The two have been searching for Rancho to no avail. They rush to Chatur who tells them that he knows where to find Rancho.
Chatur shows them how rich he has become and he stands to get even richer once he seals a deal with the famous scientist Phunsukh Wangdu.
They go to Shimla and meet the man who says he is Ranchoddas Shamaldas Chanchad. After much hostility, the man tells them that their friend is actually Chhote, the orphaned son of their gardener. The young Chhote has shown a passion for learning. He wears Ranchoddas’ old uniform and slips into his school to attend any class he likes. Ranchoddas makes Chhote do his assignments and take his exams until they get caught.
The father of Ranchoddas allows Chhote to study engineering but he wants the degree for his own son. Ranchoddas goes to London while Chhote studies engineering in his name, and has promised to cut off all ties after graduation.
Ranchoddas tells Farhan and Raju that their friend has told him “two idiots will come looking for me.” He tells them Chhote is in Ladakh and gives them a school address.
Raju and Farhan stops Pia from marrying another man, and together they go to Ladakh. Chatur is pleased that Rancho is a school teacher while he is Vice-President of Rockledge Corporation, and is going to be huge once he clinches that 10-million dollar deal with Phunsukh Wangdu.
They reach the school site and find all sorts of working inventions. They know that those are the work of Rancho.
At last, they find Rancho who has established a school for children with passion for machines. Pia and Rancho rekindle their love and the 3 idiots reunite. Chatur comes and taunts Rancho for being a village teacher and a loser. He makes Rancho sign a Declaration of Defeat. When Rancho signs it with Director Virus’ astronaut pen, Chatur grabs it and tells Rancho that the pen is for winners, not losers. He takes the pen and walks away, satisfied with himself.
When Pia asks Rancho his real name, he replies, “Phunsukh Wangdu.”
His friends can not believe that he is Phunsukh Wangdu, the famous scientist with 400 patents, and that he is Chatur’s Phunsukh Wangdu. He is a famous scientist who also teaches children.
Chatur gets a call from Phunsukh Wangdu who tells him he cannot sign the deal with his company because Chatur has taken his pen, Virus’ pen. Chatur realizes that he is talking to Rancho and he checks the signature on his Declaration of Defeat. It is signed Phunsukh Wangdu.
Chatur is bewildered at the turn of events. He tries flattery and self-deprecating tactics to win Rancho. He admits that he is the loser and Rancho is the winner. The 3 idiots and Pia run from Chatur who chases them yelling that he is going to lose his job, and he has small kids.
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All Is Well
Rancho has proven himself right, “Follow excellence and success will chase you.”
And by the way, “All is well” is a phrase that Rancho repeats to himself even when everything goes wrong.
Great movie. It's a lighthearted drama presented in a funny way. Watching it for more than two hours is time well-spent. The movie teaches some lessons about life, and it has a feel-good ending. Aamir Khan is good as Rancho/Phunsukh Wangdu.
3 Idiots is a 2009 Indian comedy-drama produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra and directed by Rajkumar Hirani. It stars Aamir Khan as Rancho/Phunsukh Wangdu, Kareena Kapoor as Pia, R. Madhavan as Farhan Qureshi, Sharman Joshi as Raju Rastogi, Boman Irani as Dr. Viru Sahastrabuddhe, and Omi Vaidya as Chatur.