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.