Now that it is widely acknowledged as one of the highest grossers of all times, and has turned into a nationwide rage, I present my analysis of what really made the movie "3 IDIOTS" click big time. I have seen its impact on my own students - at PT, PROTON and SBM. There is no problem in getting an Aal Izz Well in melodious chorus from the lot! That's pretty significant. The youth have made it their own. And every time I think of this phemonenon, I realise it's an entire case-study in management! For the eager learner, the lessons are plenty. Here goes..
Correct Subject : The movie's broad subject-line (and primary target audience) could not have been chosen any better. The most influential demographic segment of India - youth - had their angst reflected beautifully in the movie. The issues that affect the youth the most - career, college, jobs, values, family expectations, personal choice - were all neatly captured in the 3 hours drama. Today almost all sections of the youth (rural, semi-rural, semi-urban, and definitely urban) have realised that education is the key to salvation. And in this journey to "get educated", the challenges that they face are precisely the centre point of discussion in this movie.
Correct Timing : For the urban youth, several questions have arisen in the past 20 months. In the wake of global recession, a lot of assumptions have been put to test. Easy money, easy jobs, easy placements, easy promotions - everything is under a question. The stress has suddenly shifted from 'getting a job' to 'getting a meaningful education that makes you capable of a job'. And this is a really dramatic shift. The movie tries capturing this fundamental issue in a sense. So there is a connect. Yes, I understand that the movie does not talk about recession per se, but it talks about the pangs of finding a job, which is almost as good as that!
Core Message of Excellence : It is noteworthy that the movie appeals to almost all age groups. Why? The serious message given in the movie relates to the issue of career choices - should they be dictated purely by a pre-1990 mindset (that most parents still live with), or should they reflect the reality of a modern and economically liberalised India? Today, being an Engineer, Doctor, Lawyer or CA are not the only ways to ensure a respectable living for oneself. There are many more options that are at least economically lucrative - you can be a sportsperson, an event-manager, or a radio-jockey, for example. The movie appeals to youth on its message of freedom to choose what they want to (or are in love with, assuming they really know what that means). At the same time, the movie appeals to parents and teachers (like me) through its message of "Chase excellence and success will automatically chase you." I could literally hear myself speaking through Aamir Khan... in all my classes I have cried myself hoarse reminding young people that your 20s are the years when you should be totally focussing on slogging like donkeys to develop skillsets and command in your chosen field of work. Success in monetary terms is bound to follow. But, if you chase money through your 20s, misery is guaranteed in the rest of your career. I doubt whether students (youngsters) have really picked up this core message. It will be a tragedy if despite this mind-boggling success of this movie, they haven't.
Slick Presentation : The continuously improving quality of film-making in India has added to the appeal of this movie. The look and feel is totally contemporary. While watching the movie, you feel the colours and the tones inside you. It's clean. It's slick. It's cool. It's young.
Perfect Cast : Well, Aamir, you are God! The sheer youthful exuberance and acting talent of the 44-year old actor pulled crowds to the screens in the first few days, and the audience that saw in the initial stages was so delighted, the movie reached a tipping point of success. Word-of-mouth spread by the minute, and it turned into a deluge. I doubt anyone else other than Aamir could have created this tipping point. The movie would have done well, but that's about it. Sharman and Madhavan ended up making 1+1+1=33, but in Aamir's absence, they may just have remained what the title said - 3.
Heady Cocktail of Themes : A close examination reveals that the Director and Producer duo has intelligently mixed all ingredients needed for success, with such a target audience. You have a heady cocktail of an arrogant college Director who gets beaten blue by the Hero's tactics (oh, so desirable!), there's a family boy who prays day in and day out (yes, I do it too!), there's a troubled family with the burden of a loan to repay (oh, that's me! that's me!), an exceedingly beautiful and intelligent young lady (oh, how I desire I find someone like that!), a cheeky young man who is always rebelling (how nice to see someone else do it!), a suicide attempt by a poorly performing student (how sad ! how sad!), the ultimate victory of brains over money (how gratifying in my society!), and the supposed insider look at the most hallowed portals to intellectual and coporate stardom in India - the IITs (projected as ICE in the film). There is no way this combination of themes was going to fail.
Soul-stirring Music and Lyrics : There is something magical about the music and lyrics of this movie. Aal Izz Well captures the youth's mood like nothing else. You have to see a hall-full of young people shout it out in melodious chorus to be able to believe how deep its appeal has been. See it here!
It is quite apparent that the pressures of performing well in academics and life (in general) are fairly high for our young women and men. This single song - Aal Izz Well - ended up giving the Indian youth an outlet for all its anger and frustration, and that too in a melodious and non-violent way. Now that's what you call a coup. A master stroke. You do not offend anyone, and yet end up creating a vent for social anger. Beautiful. Those who find this difficult to digest are advised to listen to the song carefully without prejudice, and then maybe you will understand. Personally, the author is of the opinion that the song could well qualify for our National Motivational Anthem. Seriously! And the other songs of the movie are equally solid. Moving. Melodious. Meaningful. So what you see is a great theme, played out be great actors, supported by a great music. Not bad at all.
Combined Credibility : The combined credibility of the 3 - M/s Chopra, Hirani and Aamir - was so strong that audience were willing to put up even with the extremely delicate depictions that could have easily slipped into the domain of the "vulgar and obnoxious". The ragging scenes with juniors dropping their pants and exposing their colourful behinds, and the repeated use of Hindi terms like "balaatkaar" were simply taken with a pinch of salt by the audience and brushed aside as an important element of the movie without which the youthful college life could not have been picturised. Imagine the use of these stunts in a movie not made by Chopra, not directed by Hirani, and not carried by Aamir! Disaster.
Easy, Easy! : The Indian youth, it seems, is sick and tired of being preached to by their parents, teachers and seniors. The continuous barrage of high-sounding sermons is quite heavy and monotonous. And when these very values were presented in an EASY format, everyone was happy. It caters to the innate sense of being moral and toeing the official line, and at the same time looks and feels cool. That's pretty strong. Aamir was never in a preaching mood in the movie. There wasn't a single scene of violence in the movie. It was fun, always. And that's what the youth want. Wake up teachers & parents of India.. wake up!
I guess this is a grand success secret for anyone looking to launch a product for youth in the Indian markets. The learnings go beyond the immediate and the obvious.
Jab life ho out of control, hothon ko kar ke gol, seeti baja ke bol ...... ~