I heard Chetan Bhagat’s name the first time in 2008 when an Indian movie ‘Hello’ released. It was based on one of Chetan’s bestselling novels, ‘One Night @ the Call Center’. ‘Hello’ was a classic example of the movie-based-on-promising-story-gone-wrong. The movie sank without creating any ripples although Chetan had co-scripted it.
Chetan Bhagat is one of the widely read young, Indian authors. Two of his novels have inspired major Indian movies while the rights of his third book, ‘3 Mistakes’ have been acquired by Farhan Akhter’s Excel Entertainment. The most anticipated release of the season, ‘3 Idiots’, starring Aamir Khan is loosely based on Chetan’s debut novel, ‘Five Point Someone’.
Unfortunately, I have never read any of Chetan’s books so I can’t comment on that but what motivated me to write down my views was the movie ‘3 Idiots’. The movie is about three students from different social backgrounds studying at the Indian Institute of Technology – Delhi. The movie talks about living life on one’s own terms and chasing one’s dreams. However, chasing one’s dreams is not a piece cake if you are living someone else’s dreams.
In subcontinent a common mindset is that children are told since beginning the career they would choose. No one pays heed to the child’s aptitude or his/her own choice of profession. Similarly the absence of career counseling in the educational institutes makes things worse. Talking of careers, there are especially two professions considered lucrative, stylish and appealing in every sense of the word. First is the medical profession and second is the engineering.
According to the latest statistics released by the government, female literacy rate in Pakistan stands on 42% – out of that only 15-25% seeks higher education. Majority of those seeking higher education compete for a place in medical schools. Those who are left out later on change career plans. Has anyone ever wondered why all the young ladies like to end up in the medical profession? The answer to this question is quite simple. In most cases the girl is fulfilling her parent’s expectations. She’s been told and trained since childhood as to what she would become and this leaves almost no room for making her own choices. I can totally relate to that. When I was a kid and someone would ask me what I would like to become when I grow up, I would instantly say, ‘doctor’. I knew nothing about this profession. Doctors were scarce in our family so there was no question of idealizing anyone either. Actually my father wanted me to pursue medicine. He would often tell me, while helping me solve the math problems, that I had to work hard because he wanted me to be a doctor. For years, I remained under that pressure. In ninth standard I realized, I wasn’t cut for medical profession. The sight of blood would invariably make me queasy. I was having hard time studying Physics and Chemistry. So one day, I mustered up courage and with pounding heart told my father that I lacked an aptitude for studying medicine. The expression that spread across his face was something I would never forget. His head hung down in disappointment and he only asked me that much, ‘then what?’ As if there weren’t other professions left in the world to pursue? How I convinced him is a long story but his disappointed tone still resonates in my ears.
Is it fine for parents to realize their dreams through their kids? Having gone through it personally I’d do my child a favor and would never force him/her to become a tennis player or a movie director because I wanted to become those at one time.
In the South Asian society there is another aspect of forcing girls into medical profession. Being a doctor means not only a secure financial future but it also guarantees good match in the marriage market. The match making aunties look for girls, who have a medicine degree, are tall and fair because that’s what the demand is. They can compromise on the last two credentials as long as the girl is a doctor and is making good money. Needless to say this attitude is sickening to the core and reflects a strange collective behavior of the society.
Like girls, the boys also live with the dilemma of forced career. Although it’s not a written rule but is followed religiously that if the father is a doctor, an engineer or a civil servant the son will have to follow his footsteps irrespective of his own choice. In ‘3 Idiots’ this issue has been raised quite effectively. Besides, the movie also questions the rat race of getting good scores by cramming text books and less focus on the practical or out of the box approach to the teaching and studying methods. Those people who have been part of the Indian or Pakistani education system would relate to that movie.
It was so refreshing to watch ‘3 Idiots.’ It raised so many thought provoking questions without getting preachy. It is one of those rare Indian movies where entertainment meets substance and you end up feeling enlightened and rejuvenated because you feel as if your own thoughts found voice on the big screen. All the actors have acted well but ‘3 Idiots’ is Aamir Khan’s movie all the way. Only a perfectionist like him could pull off a role of 20-something college student. He did lose oodles of weight for that role.
After this movie, the director Rajkumar Hirani has become one of my favorites in the business. Through his first two movies, ‘Munna Bhai MBBS’ and ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’ he spread Gandhi’s message of universal peace and love and also introduced the world to the ‘magical hug’ – a sincere hug that was bound to eliminate all tensions. And the mantra of ‘3 Idiots’ is, ‘All is well’. Burry your worry! That may not solve the problem but will give you enough strength to cope with it. Hats off to Chetan Bhagat, to Hirani, to Aamir and to everyone connected with the project for making a genuine movie with the powerful message.
Author: Ayesha Umer