In the U.S., we have Avatar and Titanic. China has Aftershock, a re-recreation of the deadly Tangshan earthquake. In India, it’s 3 Idiots that is the highest grossing film of all time.
Now, that’s no small feat for a country that churns out more than 1,000 films a year to a population of 1.2 billion. The multiple award-winning Bollywood film (it swept the International Indian Film Academy Awards) not only packs some serious star power (including Aamir Khan), it addresses some serious societal issues, all wrapped up in a heartfelt comedy starring three charming and lovable heroes.
Rancho shows up the first day of school at India’s most prestigious engineering university and immediately turns campus norms upside down. A strident believer in learning, as opposed to ranking and grades, in innovation as opposed to conformity, Rancho immediately makes an enemy of the school dean, whom they nickname Virus. Not one to follow the rules or bend to hierarchy, Rancho shows up professor after professor in his classes, teaches a bully of an upperclassman a “shocking” lesson, and crashes weddings with his two best friends, both only sons who are the hope of their families. Knowing he can only best Rancho through his duty-laden best friends, Virus determines to get them kicked out of school, resulting in tragic consequences.
Just based on the name, you think it’s going to be a subcontinent Animal House. And while there are raucous hazing scenes and plenty of college shenanigans, the film is so much more than that. It’s a fascinating look into modern Indian culture — the immense pressure on sons to lift their families out of poverty, the emphasis on grades and rank versus innovation and learning, the struggle between following your dreams and obeying your parents. These themes resonate across many Asian cultures (Tiger Mom, anyone?), and it’s interesting to see it play out amidst Bollywood song and dance numbers (yup, they have several of those in the film).
If you missed the theatrical release, get it on DVD, available starting today on Amazon.com, Target, and other stores.