There are some characters which pull you to the cinema halls. Then there are some, which come home with you, sticking to your mind, heart and emotions. Ranchoddas Shamaldas Chanchad aka Phunsukh Wangdu aka Rancho from 3 Idiots was the latter. Even after a decade, Rancho (played by Aamir Khan) remains etched in our memories, and the sheer mention of his name ensures “Aal Izz Well”.
So how did Rancho manage to shake not only our education system but also our conscience, connecting so deeply with the audience?
Rancho enters the college like a storm and sneaks through our senses giving goosebumps. Much like the song that best describes him – “Beheti hawa sa tha woh” (He was like a blowing wind), Rancho is the breath of fresh air, the wind beneath the wings of the other two idiots – Farhan and Raju.
Though his character (and the film) was adapted from Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone, his personification made him one of the best remembered characters in recent years. Rancho had ideas, inputs and life lessons at every step. Be it his mantra of “need is the mother of every invention” to “be practical, not theoretical” and “do what you love and not what others want”, each one had a deep connection in our day-to-day lives. No wonder his friends aptly called him Baba Ranchoddas.
He taught us that it is okay to take risks and fail, for at least we tried.
But this did not make him a saint. Rancho was also the naughtiest one around, had the wackiest plans, did the craziest stuff in college, and left his Director (Virus) taking blood pressure pills. He had the funniest reactions to the most serious situations and that helped ease out the tension which would otherwise have made 3 Idiots preachy.
To find a friend like Rancho in Bollywood would be difficult. Yes, we’ve definitely had our Jai-Veerus, Amar-Prems et al, but Rancho was nothing we had seen before. When 3 Idiots came, friendship films in Bollywood meant Rang De Basanti, Dil Chahta Hai, Sholay, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Rock On or Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. But did any of these have a friend like Rancho? No.
Rancho resonated with our feelings because of several reasons. He wore the most casual attire, his regular sling bag was something we all have owned, he did not sport a chiseled body much like his contemporaries from other Hindi films. He spoke the simplest language, had a sparkle in his eyes like any other ambitious student, and a major credit for this goes to Aamir Khan for infusing life into Rancho.
Rancho set his own rules, broke them, only to create new ones. He was brilliant at studies, passionate about acquiring knowledge and yet, naive and vulnerable when it was about love. This made him adorable too. (Who wouldn’t want to just hug him and tell him that nose is never a problem.)
Rancho’s most striking scene, according to me, was when he led the trail of vehicles and ambulance after Raju tried to commit suicide. Wearing a blood-stained T-shirt, his panic, desperation and fear of losing his friend was palpable. With “Jaane nahin denge tujhe” playing in the background, he clears the traffic on his scooty, and every heart pains. This tiny sequence was enough to establish the strength of his back story that it was indeed just his two friends who were his most prized possessions, his lifelines. So how can he even think of not having any one around?
Rancho taught us many things about life, friendship, love, success and ambitions. But all the lessons were taught with a mischievous smile, a twinkle in his eyes and a screen presence that was a stress buster.