Thursday, January 14, 2010

Success secrets - The "3 Idiots" case study

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..

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 ......


RAJSHREE said...

Awesome Analysis Sir, Amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!. We wish that we could also do such an outstanding analysis of things, coming on our way.

And ofcourse, "Strive for Excellence" will remain the key for generations to come.
Thank-You so much Sir, for this wonderful blogpost. "Aal izz well"

Rajshree Gupta

Vidit Shah said...

Dear Sir,
It is surely a case study for which we had a solution as well. I agree to your point as it is very essential to do anything with dedication and excellence, let it be movie or let it be our life. If we do it with determination then success follows automatically.
Another personnel observation, there has to be a difference of opinion between parents and children because of generation gap, and somehow parents have gone through this stage and know the consequences of the same. So its just their effort to stop their child from doing something wrong which they might have faced or they have seen at their time. Now its we who have to understand them and avoid doing the mistakes by learning from their experience.
Sir thanks for sharing such a wonderful analysis.
Vidit Shah

Neha Fatehchandani said...

Dear Sir,
Amazing post!
After seeing this movie few lessons i have learned are:
1.Courage to face the problem: To be very frank most of the time I have been running, ignoring or crying over my problems rather than facing them but now things are totally changed; I accept it and try to solve it.
2.The funda “All is well”: Easy to say but difficult to implement it has taught me to be calm and cool in the most distressful situations.
3.Focus on strengths: Its been quite a few time I have been confused in many things, I use to talk to people and the confusion simply grew, I realized its you who can discover your strengths and can work on it, I have successfully discovered my few strengths and have also started working on it.
4.To be assertive: In entire movie Aamir khan has been assertive and i feel to be successful one needs to be assertive.

Warm Regards,
Proton Neha Fatehchandani
Fall 09

Touseef said...

The adventure of 3 Idiots is a blithe and absorbing adventure of three accompany in academic life, So it is surely a case study.
One of my biggest observation was how the director cope to cast middle aged men as college going boys and he did it.
Great movie and Greater analysis.
Thank You sir, for sharing this case.
Touseef Bhat

Neeraj Chotrani said...

Hello Sir,
What a wonderful blogpost is this!
"maza aa gaya"
I have learnt so many learnings from this blogpost.First is the principle of marketing that you have described,I agree with you sir that Aamir Khan has a tremondous talent to attract the youth at the age of 44.A good marketer should know the taste of his audience.
Secondly, It is very true that never follow success always try to acheive excellence and Knowledge, Success will automatically fall in your feet.
Third, One should have choose career whatever he/she wants like RJ,VJ,Sportsman etc.Once I read an article of Shahrukh Khan in which he wrote that biggest reason of my success is only my well education.There education mean to his knowledege and literacy.
So,It is necessary that whatever field anyone want to choose he/she must have exellence in it.
Neeraj Chotrani

Prateek Agrawal said...

Dear Sir,
what a wonderful analysis,i found that in this movie Aamir khan came ICE only learning not for taking degree because he was doing it for someone, in the present world we students also have to do like this but so many students are running for degree.

Proton Prateek Agrawal

Prateek Agrawal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Neeraj Chotrani said...

Hello Sir,
What a wonderful blogpost is this!
"maza aa gaya"
I have learnt many learning from this blogpost. First, the principle of marketing that you described, I agree with you sir that Aamir Khan has a tremendous talent to attract the youth at the age of 44. A good marketer should know the taste of his audience.
Secondly, It is very true that never follow success always try to achieve excellence and Knowledge, Success will automatically fall in your feet.
Third, One should have choose career whatever he/she wants like RJ, VJ, Sportsman etc. Once I read an article of Shahrukh Khan in which he wrote that today I am successful only because of my well education. There education mean to his knowledge and literacy.
So, It is necessary that whatever field one can want to choose he/she must have excellence in it.
Neeraj Chotrani

Nilesh Ratilal Patel said...

Dear Sir,
This Case study helped me to find out success key of this movie.
1. Know Your Customer.
2. Brand your product if it really contains some value.

Ultimately movie is successfull because every viewer can find themself many where in this movie.
"It's all about Emotional Attachment"
Thank You Sir!!!!!"

View Point: Nivsarkar, Himanshu said...

The subject and messaging is very appropiate and timely, however in my opinion, I believe the youth today is more slick they are a combination between a youth of Rock on! and 3 idots!.

With cinema its a vision of the director on a written material( whose material it is, that point is debateable) in absence of credible alternative... All is Well...


Test said...

Himanshu - ha ha, nice point!

Nilesh - yes, emotional attachment is indeed the key.

Neeraj - the example of Shah Rukh Khan is excellent! I will remember that.

Prateek - the context of that example (Rancho taking degree for someone else) is highly debatable!

Touseef - the Director must have found it difficult to manage the age groups! Imagine, how he did it!

Neha - it seems you are becoming a good case-study analyst yourself!

Vidit / Rajshree - chasing excellence truly is the key. But unfortunately, a lot of people forget that in the hustle and bustle of daily life. They just focus on the "now" and "here" and not the "future" and "there".

None the Wiser said...

Very interesting insight. Also, imho, the movie is a sterling case-study in understanding the mindset of the audience (consumers for an entrepreneur).If juxtaposed against its forerunner, Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar (in terms of treatment and its subsequent response), this movie tells us a lot. The first thing that comes to mind is that the audience tastes have evolved, and how! Here's the summary of my readings:
1) NO BLACK AND WHITE ANYMORE: The former (JJWS) was set in a small village and had very clear associations: rich-spoilt-bad and middleclass-honest/hardworking-good.(This reflects the ideals of a pre-LPG, largely socialistic country) Triumph always came through hardwork and FOLLOWING THE RULES and defeating the "bad". In the latter (3I) the lines between good and bad are thin (if they exist at all); and, triumph here comes from CHALLENGING THE RULES. Although crass material pursuit is still frowned upon!
Things aren't simple today. Every manager needs to understand that. There are no rules, you make them as you grow. This makes things much trickier; making such basic decisions is a necessary but, rare skill.
2) A VERY DISCERNING/ MATURE AUDIENCE: Ten years ago, "balatkaar" as a word would've only created melodrama or pain. Who would've thought audience would split sides laughing on repeated use of the word. To generate comic relief out of a paralysed father and a poverty stricken family would've been pure blasphemy even 5 years ago. The credit is shared equally between the director's nimble skill and a the confidence and mature sense of humor of the new generation. This becomes more important in the light of the fact that crass comedies sink without a trace these days.
Clearly the consumer has come of age. It is becoming increasingly difficult to woo them. Enter, intelligent advertising. There is simply, no other way!
3) RISE OF THE FEMALE PROTAGONIST: The new leading lady makes her own decisions, stands up (even to her father) for what she feels is right, gets drunk and runs away from her own wedding! The idea of a demure little girl who makes only sacrifices, or that of a conniving wicked vamp (JJWS), are both, laughable today.
It would be suicidal to ignore this powerful new force in consumer behavior.
4) YOUTH SHALL INHERIT THE WORLD: In this analysis and in your LTS sessions, you have proclaimed in no uncertain terms, the power of youth. I couldn't agree more. The success of this movie tells us that this class is here to stay. They (or shall I say we :)) are willing to experiment, take on challenges, highly demanding and most importantly, by far, the largest in number. All managers need to sit up and take notice; right-away.

I'm sure I have missed many, but here's my first attempt at analysis. I hope it makes my fellow students think some more!


Test said...

Sania - wonderful comment. Enjoyed reading a young lady's articulate views on contemporary marketing needs and mindsets. Why don't you start a blog? You have a great writing skill, and must put it to a larger audience, if not done already. Best of luck

smthin differnt said...

great analysis.....
even hv read sania comment n u both not missed any point jst want 2 add one thing....india is changing..youth is changing in a right no more parents stop their girls or boys to participate in reality show(dance n singing)which earlier not easy for them to digest...they givethem wings to fly their own....
writer, painter, singer we have all.......thanks to changing time....

PRANAV said...

Nice post...thanks for sharing sir..

PRANAV said...

Nice post...thanks for sharing sir...

Test said...

smthin different, Pranav - thanks for reading and commenting!

Nupur said...

Point number 8..very true ! The deadly combination made it possible for the film to scoop out the success !

A very nice review of the film while putting in the form of analysis !

Your statement I guess this is a grand success secret for anyone looking to launch a product for youth in the Indian markets. is correct but in one way because we live in a stubborn society.Things might be changing but the pace is slow,specially when it comes to parents changing their mindsets ! Everyone has to learn and do their bit to change the way education is perceived in our country!

Ironically,there will be only students [majority] who will change after watching the movie and parents will remain the same [read:not all will change/can change] so it will give rise to conflicts between the two sects-students and parents !