Saturday, January 09, 2010

Idiots

Since I have not read Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone, I cannot say how much of the book is shown in Aamir Khan's 3 Idiots. I saw the film this evening and quite liked it. And since I am aware of the controversy, about Bhagat not being duly acknowledged by the filmmakers, I waited till the end when the credits started rolling in. Only towards the fag end, when half of the audience had already walked out, did one get to see the tiny words on the screen rolling down, "Based on Chetan Bhagat's novel Five Point Someone." If the movie is acknowledging that it is based on the book, shouldn't the credit come right when the movie starts? I think that is highly unfair and, to me, looks even deliberate.

If the movie has used only 10% or 15% of the book, as the filmmakers claim, then the credit line should say, "Partially based on Five Point Someone" or "Inspired by Five Point Someone." Even then, the credit should not have come at the fag end when the theatre is almost empty. I am no fan of Bhagat -- simply because I have not read any of his books except Two States, which I found hilarious in parts only because of its candid (at least from an outsider's view) portrayal of Chennai -- but I do get a feeling that his book was hijacked. Even if the idea was hijacked, that's good enough reason the author to get pissed; who cares about the screenplay or the details?

It is the idea that makes 3 Idiots click, the idea being: Do what your heart says, be what your heart wants you to be, and not what your parents or teachers want you to be. Needless to say, the film is doing so well. It is bound to strike a chord with millions who wanted to be something in life but ended up being something else, but at the moment are in the process of forcing that something on their own children.

Personally, I am familiar enough with the idea to have pursued it with a zeal 17 years ago when I became a journalist at the age of 22. But what a pity that I wasted three years before that, sitting for engineering entrances knowing fully well I was not going to get through. My fetish for stationery and the smell of fresh ink made me spend a lot of my father's hard-earned money on guide-books and correspondence courses meant to equip me for IIT-JEE. Looking back, the three years were not actually wasted: under the charade of 'preparing' for engineering entrances, I was silently equipping myself to be a journalist by reading up every single newsmagazine that was printed at the time. Sadly, many of them have closed down: Illustrated Weekly, Mirror, Probe, Onlooker.

But those were the most depressing days of my youth: almost every evening, father would come back from work to announce that the son or the daughter of a certain colleague has been selected to some engineering college or the other. A pall of gloom would instantly descend on our home. I would feel like the academic equivalent of a man suffering from erectile dysfunction. If at all there was an outing plan for the evening, that would stand cancelled -- just because someone else's child had got into an engineering college. That's the sad part: you are rarely judged by what you are, but always by what the other person is.

Only regret, today, is what if I had spent that money on literary books instead of guidebooks? Would that have made me a better writer? Perhaps. But I had no example to look up to and emulate. Everybody was busy 'preparing' for something or the other. But on the whole, no regrets at all because I got what I wanted.

When I became a journalist, the number of engineers who were joining the profession was not funny. They were doing the same thing as I was doing. If they eventually had to sub copies, what happens to the time and money they had spent on becoming an engineer? Was the race worth it?

At an age when they should be watching movies and having ice-cream with their girlfriends/boyfriends, they remain buried under books out of fear and pressure -- what if they are not able to make it? And once they are not able to make it, the inferiority complex robs them of whatever little self-confidence they are left with and inhibits them from displaying any other talent that they might have. What a tragedy. A degree might earn you a job, but it is not sufficient to get you a life.

Chetan Bhagat himself is a good example. It was writing that brought him fame and fortune. And once he realised his writing was selling, he junked his prestigious degrees. Degrees are dispensable. It's only determination that counts.

P.S. The highest point of 3 Idiots, according to me, is the performance by the boy who designs the helicopter. His role was short but packed with intensitiy.

10 comments:

Priyadarshini said...

A life without regrets is something all us want. Thats why I want to be a baby again.

Anonymous said...

every scene in the movie calls for a still shot. The movie is better than the book but what would a body be without the skeleton!!

Aamir or whoever is responsible for the author fiasco needs to be whacked (literally or economically should be entirely upto Chetan Bhagat) But, CB has got some free publicity out of it too, so i guess he has stopped complaining.. Aal izz well :-)

janani sampath said...

I liked the film, but thought it got a little stretched in the second half. The labour scene seemed to be inspired by Deepika Padukone's BSNL ad and a few parts here and there were a rehash of Munnabhai.
But, like you said, the film has done a great service to the Indian society. Here we want to quantify everything in the form of grades and marks. And, most do not break rules because the fear of failure is always looming large..
And I also think Three Idiots has done a greta service to CB, too.. Now, he and his books are in the limelight again. Iam not surprised Five Point Someone is back on the best sellers list...

Deepika said...

OR maybe its all about following your heart in spite of your degrees!

initially Five Point Someone clicked largely because of Bhagat's background with the younger lot getting quite curious to know what an IIT and IIM alumni is doing in a world where two and two may or may not make a perfect four! his degrees are still being used to promote his books, and in India, one can neither excuse nor resist degrees!

it doesnt matter when one chooses to go the heart's way (before or after earning a degree) coz both equally require muscle and guts....strange, but true!

well then, had you become an engineer, would you've thought of becoming a writer?

well one often hears "life is short follow your heart!", but on the contrary life is actually tooo long...one has enough time to grow the cabbages that pay at once and some roses too for the soul!

Cheers!

Nandini said...

I have read the book Five Point Someone. More than half of the movie is based on the book. In fact the book is better than the movie. It is really unfair that CB has not got any credit for the story. It is not about money. It is about principles. The producer may have paid CB in terms of money. But it is unethical to not credit CB with the story.
CB's degrees have given enough initial publicity to the book. If it was not written by an IITian and not in a setting of IIT, it would not have hit it off with the techies...
Also because of his degrees, he is able to make a choice at this point in his career. So, it is good to study what will earn you more money and at the same time pursue what you love to do. CB has shown that it is possible. Perhaps that is the reason his books come across as very honest, straight from the heart types and not preachy. The movie gets preachy.

Snigdha Manchanda Binjola said...

I've read the book and feel infuriated at the treatment meted out to Bhagat. He deserves much more than this; but I wish he had realized this before he sold his book rights to "movie mogul" Vidhu Chopra for a mere one lakh.

Bishwanath Ghosh said...

A mere one lakh rupees?!

Praveen said...

Though I'll share a few links crelated to this topic;

Hirani speaks out

Rolling Credits

Vir Sanghvi's take

Sudhish Kamat's take

Snigdha Manchanda Binjola said...

Yes, a mere one lakh for the book rights and a 10 lakh bonus was promised "if the film does well". Both combined is less than 1/10th the amount of money the film is making. The full agreement details are here- http://www.vinodchopra.com/agreement.pdf

Although sad, it's a good lesson for writers who want to sell their book rights to film makers.

Anonymous said...

@ Nandini... Wonder who is 'Preachy' here? To me it looks like the classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.