The Idiotic Sensationalism

My congratulations to Aamir Khan, Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra on making a great movie. I also extend my sympathies to Chetan Bhagat and believe that the author should have been duly credited. But there’s a lot more to the controversy than that, after all the world has been talking about it for 3 days now!

I must confess that when the world started tweeting about the controversy, I thought it’s one of those ‘get-publicity-while-you-can’ stunt. The debate on who should be given the credit, the man behind the original idea or the man who put the efforts to make it a much better idea, should not last very long. Both deserve enough credit, right? Even though I thought it would be a waste of time to spend time keeping up with tweets, I hung around just to be amused by the fakingnews tweets. To my surprise I found the whole exercise quite worth the time investment as it was a learning experience.

From a third person perspective, I am in complete agreement with Vir Sanghvi that Vidhu Vinod Chopra lacked grace in handling the situation. But looking at the nitty-gritty of the story and seeing Chetan Bhagat flip completely on the issue made me think that maybe there is more to the issue than just this. After reading quite a bit about it and seeing the news channels do what they do best, make such a sensation out of a controversial issue, I believe that Chetan Bhagat’s perfectly reasonable solution should be honoured.

I don’t think that this marks the end of this sensation. While everyone is in awe of the movie, IBN Live Journalist Sagarika Ghose has a written a negative take on the movie. She thinks that movie ‘legitimises scorn and hatred of education, sanctions wilful dumbing down’ and will make us a ‘nation of idiots’. When does Aamir Khan say that leave schools and stop studying? All he says is that dare to follow your passion, get the right education and skills to fulfill your dream. And when has it been shown in the movie that the students have been able to get away after committing serious offenses? They have had to make up for it every time by doing something worthy of keeping them in the institute.

The movie is based on Five Point Someone which was written by Chetan Bhagat with some reference to his own experiences of the IITs in the 1990s. After 20 years, if the 3 Idiots has struck chord with the sentiments of the current students, then not much has changed in the education system since then, has it? We must realise that the same evils still exist in the education system and it is time we do something concrete about them and that is what the message of the movie is. It is not a movie that ‘trivializes our higher education system’ instead it speaks of the importance of higher education in developing a person.

The movie is not going to stop students from appearing for the IIT-JEE or CAT and is in no way going to ‘allow standards in our centers of excellence to be lowered’. Instead, what it might do to is help students take up the scholarship only if they have the true passion for it. Yes, we may need more doctors and engineers in the coming decade to keep up the pace of our development, but we certainly don’t want angry doctors and frustrated engineers doing jobs they do not enjoy doing.

Ms Ghose seems to forget that she (and I) is part of the 1% of students who represent the whole country. They are the students who have got education from these centers of excellence. 99% students who graduate don’t get quality education and do not have the employability skills that a graduate student must have. There is far too much to do about the system and the movie tries to highlight that. I don’t think that it is going to affect the mindset of rational people and make them ‘engage in an escapist fantasy and convince ourselves that education does not matter’. If one movie can cause such a tide then Munnabhai’s show of Gandhigiri should have stopped all crime in India.

It is a movie after all. It is meant to give a message masked in light-hearted entertainment. If I know anything about entertainment, I know that people don’t get entertained by normal things. They need something extra-ordinary and for that exaggeration needs to be used skillfully. I think 3 Idiots has a done a fantastic job at that and has managed to put across an important message to the Indian society.

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