This article was first published in 2015
At the very outset let me say that Raju Hirani had changed his style of film making with PK considerably. His previous movies be it the Munnabhai Series or 3 idiots were never so vocal about the director’s complaints with the “system”. It was only later after watching the complete movie that we realized how brilliantly 3 idiots has critiqued the Indian education system (without letting us feel that it is being criticized upon). The best comic scene in 3 idiots would agreeably be Chatur’s teacher’s day speech which not only entertained audiences in a fresh manner (continuous hilarity compared to one-off comedy in Munnabhai) but very subtly showcased the effects of the education system India is following.
Although some might say that it was exaggerated but that has been Raju’s style and exaggeration has always found favor with the Indian audiences. Compare this with the comic scenes in PK where comedy has been generated by the protagonist’s strangeness (and subsequent questions) to the religions adopted in the country which may not bear relation with the message it has conveyed. After all PK does not say that fashion according to religion is illogical and bad. It only says that blind faith on religion, which is being increasingly twisted as it passes through the centuries facilitated by god men, is bad. Or maybe I am wrong in saying that PK is only a satire on religion as practiced by people in which case I’ll have to watch the movie again to uncover its hidden and originally-intended message.
Coming to the novel questions that Aamir asks in the movie they suffer from the fallacy of over-simplification thus making one class of people realize that the questions could have been better or that Oh My God conveyed the message better. Perhaps Raju Hirani’s modus operandi had been already used in OMG which is why the makers thought of tweaking their style. Again Hirani’s craft lies in sketching out each character and integrating the varied emotions and thought process of each character. For e.g. one major reason for Kareena Kapoor (Piya) to fall for Aamir Khan (Rancho) in 3 idiots was because of his revolting nature against the education something which she shared too albeit discreetly as she herself grew up in a household which caricatured this system executed by her own father. Contrast this with PK where the stories of the supporting characters seem half-baked. For instance Jaggu’s (Anushka Sharma’s) affection for Sarfaraz (Sushant Singh Rajput) and vice-versa comes across as random and does not occur as a result of a meeting of their minds and hearts or at least so it seems.
Coming to numbers (an important but not conclusive parameter to determine which is a better movie) it would be wrong not to attribute 3 idiots‘s success to wide scale marketing. After all 3 idiots was given the largest release at that time with close to 2000 screens showing the movie. However the film came at a time when multiplexes were not common in this country and there was not so much competition among the movies for the audience’s time but it still made money enough to become a milestone in its own right. This only shows that more no. of people have watched 3 idiots than PK could manage in its lifetime. This only happens when there is a stronger word of mouth publicity. 3 idiots was based on a theme which remains relevant universally whereas PK‘s relevance is restricted to India. Thus box office numbers can only contribute so much in determining the question which movie is better. Plus numbers are misleading given the fact that new releases of Raju Hirani will always be compared with his previous blockbusters in this case 3 idiots and this dampens the business of the new movie.
Considering all the reasons mentioned above and all the factors beyond the control of the moviemaker I’d say that 3 idiots edges past PK marginally but only if I have been able to correctly identify both the movies as described in the above paragraphs. 3 idiots has been liked by everyone to the same measure. PK has received superior likeness by some while some would label it above average. The Indian audiences are changing and so has the film maker. Only the change has not been so appreciated as it should have been (or expected to have been) according to me. 3 idiots would have been received similarly if it had been released in 2014 and not 2009.
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