January 3, 2010 3:48:50 am
Is 3 Idiots only 5 per cent like Five Point Someone,as Aamir Khan would have you believe? Or is it closer to 70 per cent,which is what Chetan Bhagat claims prominent movie critics have told him privately? Has the films producer,Vidhu Vinod Chopra,ethically violated the contract he signed with Bhagat? The Indian Express investigated the similarities and differences. And,wouldnt you know it,there are five points that matter.
The first two are points of agreement.
n First,both book and film are about three friends at an engineering college,who bond over ragging,and dont much like the way that theyre being taught. That much,presumably,would be in anything set in an IIT-style institution. But similarities in what happens to the three go much further: during ragging,for example,one of them,rather extraordinarily,defies the seniors,and generally turns out to be much cooler than the other two. The second is generally terrified by the pressure of college and the third is from a family thats struggling financially,which leads him into taking some pretty extreme steps. Their shared disaffection with the place leads them into disciplinary problems that are pretty much unchanged between the book and the film; and those problems arent resolved differently,either.
n Second,one of them starts seeing the daughter of a particularly control-freaky professor,and theres a major plot pointin the book,the biggest twist,in the movie the second-biggestthat has to do with the professors family. That bit is a direct liftbut,appropriately,its a lot more filmi in the movie.
Those are direct similarities. Yes,theyre pretty big,but thats where they end.
n The third point,and first big difference,is that the movie doesnt stop at graduation; it follows the three friends into their later,post-career lifewhich is where it gets to its biggest twist.
n The second difference,and fourth point,is also telling: the movie is a star vehicle in a way the book very definitely is not. The cool character in the book is played by Aamir Khan in the movie. (Though,in the book,the character is over six feet tall.) And,unlike in the book,the love affair is his; unlike in the book,he isnt prone to sulks; unlike in the book,his distaste for the teaching doesnt affect his ability to perform in examinations. Theres not much nuance left in the character by the time the adaptors,Abhijat Joshi and Vidhu Vinod Chopra,got through with it.
n But the fifth point,and the third similarity,is a pretty big deal to most viewers. Which is that that both book and movie sound the same. They make the same points about Indias educational system,about controlling parents,about stifled creativity,and they make it in the same way,using Bhagats language.
And that probably explains the spat: different ideas of what new means,and of what creativity means. Chetan Bhagat is an engineer. When he hears based about 5 per cent on your book,he estimates the proportion of screen time that sounds like it is lifted from his bookand,naturally,has a completely different,and higher,estimate. Aamir Khan,according to Bhagat,was asked not to read the book,so perhaps hes not an expert on the comparison.
And Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra? Well,by Bollywoods standards for inspiration,they would think that theyre entitled to think of this as a substantially altered script. Theres certainly a lot that is new and ultra-filmi in it. But Bollywoods standards for original are not necessarily everybody elses. Perhaps what makes this unusual is that the primary creator has a platform that lets him speak his mindand has sold enough books to legitimately claim he isnt in it for the money.
Indeed,whether or not he feels his name was buried,as he has claimed on his blog,one thing is certain: it wont hurt Bhagats sales. Even if the movie hasnt made a big deal of the links,Five Point Someone was out of stock in four major South Delhi bookstores on Saturday. Everyone,said an sales assistant at one,seemed to be buying it this weekend. After all,it says right on top: the national bestseller,soon to be a major film. Only it doesnt specify the films name. Perhaps burying Bhagats name was just payback?
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.