100 Movies Bucket List: 3 Idiots

100 Movies Bucket List was a poster given to Jesse by his sister on Christmas 2019. We are committed to watching all of these movies and writing about them. We have no idea how long this will take. What even is time during the quarantine? And sometimes, these posts will include spoilers. Just a friendly warning from two friendly guys.

Once upon a time I was traveling through Southeast Asia on a quest to find myself. Well actually I was on a quest to travel around Southeast Asia and I wasn’t thinking about much else but I was young and looking to connect with the world outside of the suburbs of Colorado.

During my travels my wife and I made a lot of new friends. Most were ex-pats (ex-patriots, AKA extended travelers from the USA), others were from Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and a few were from Southeast Asia. I wanted to connect with this region so obviously the few from Southeast Asia were my favorite (yes I pick favorites among my friends! Jesse is currently trending up so good for him.)

One such friend was from India. She told us stories of the wars her country had fought in, the struggles her family had endured to survive, and all of her favorite Bollywood movies. Yes we would often transition from the most haunting stories of war to her favorite Bollywood actor seamlessly. Travel friends are funny like that, you feel an instant connection and you have to pack your entire life story and personality into a constrained amount of time.

I remember her recommending 3 Idiots, a coming-of-age Bollywood film. At the time I wasn’t aware of how large of an impact this movie made in the film industry. Based on the name I assumed it was the Indian version of Dumb and Dumber except with three dummies instead of two.

I was very wrong. Unfortunately I didn’t pursue her recommendation, I put it on a list that has since been lost. Thankfully due to another friend (Jesse, you see why he’s moving up the rankings?) and his ‘100 Movies Bucket List’ project the recommendation was given another chance of life.

I’m profoundly grateful as 3 Idiots is an absolute delight. Despite being near three hours long the heart and fun never let up in this beautiful film. And as far as an introduction to Bollywood? Well let’s just say 3 Idiots piqued my interest in Indian film as Old Boy piqued my interest in Korean film. Albeit with far less blood and psychological fuckery.

3 Idiots is a typical coming-of-age story with a traditional collegiate setting that follows three young men as they attempt to survive the unrelenting pressure of a prestigious engineering school. And while the story hits all the usual beats it has a freshness to it thanks to the natural charisma from the wise-beyond-his-years lead in Rancho (played by Aamir Khan who plays a teenage character despite being in his 40’s during filming).

The film is also distinct because it has a secondary timeline, ten years in the future, that provides the audience with a natural fulfillment. Typically the joy behind a coming-of-age story is seeing a young protagonist grow into themselves and then by the end you are ready to let them go in to the world alone because you know they will thrive. It’s like being a parent to a fictional character. But in this film we actually get to see the people they become, in some instances, before we see their collegiate journey. Even better we see them in their grown state while they are on another journey in the present timeline which provides further growth! It’s a beautiful touch that teaches humans are constantly learning even outside of their formative years.

Perhaps that’s why the film resonated with me so much. I may not be Indian nor smart enough to be an engineer but the characters and the story still spoke to me. The two journeys the characters go on, with one journey explicitly shaping who they are in the other, is relatable no matter who you are, especially as you get older and more reflective and you realize how much of an impact your past has on your present and future.

Cheesy as it is the memory of a simple act, in this case a movie recommendation, by a travel friend from another country allowed my mind to jump back to the time my wife and I traversed the great region of Southeast Asia. And the recommendation coming back to me six years later allowed me to connect the dots of my own journey from a wandering 20-something in Bangkok to the present day 30-year-old living in Brooklyn. I discovered I have been in my own coming-of-age story this whole time and it reminded me there is always more to learn.

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