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5 life lessons and mantra from 3 Idiots

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

3 idiots, directed by Rajkumar Hirani, made my Tuesday night. I enjoy Bollywood movies because they are entertaining and will make you cry like a baby. Although 3 Idiots isn’t perfect, it certainly shed light into the flaws of the education system in India.

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Regrettably, in 2020, 28 Indian students kill themselves each day. The high societal pressure in India led 10,159 students to commit suicide in 2018 all over the country. The numbers are rising each year and the highest being amongst the 15-29 age group (40%). The president of the Indian Psychiatric Society, Mrugesh Vaishnav said “Stress, anxiety disorder, depression, personality disorder — all these result in mental illness that leads a student towards suicide. This happens when the students are not familiar/satisfied with his or her surroundings.” Unfortunately, not every student gets emotional support during a crisis.

The movie “3 Idiots” exposes the distress and suicidal tendencies in students. Rajkumar Hirani conveys an important message on India’s educational system. The director cleverly uses comedy and laughter to denounce how societal demands can bring down students’ potential and lead them to a fatal outcome. Through the main character, Rancho, Hirani shows an unorthodox way of experiencing school. Despite the pressure to get good grades, school is also a place of curiosity and learning. Instead of only focusing on the competition and results of schooling, school is also important in building friendships, collaborating, and enjoying the learning process. Here’s 3 Idiots it highlights many life lessons and mantras to happiness.


(Beware: the content of this article contains spoilers!)

This movie starts off with two friends Raju and Farhan in search of their long-lost friend Rancho. The trio attended one of the most elite colleges of Engineering in India where the societal pressure is high. Rancho is a non-conformist student who values learning more than grades and a diploma. He is a rule-breaker and constantly challenges his teachers and the principal nicknamed “Virus” on his cruel and competitive education system.

In contrast, another student, Chatur, nicknamed Silencer represents the competitive student who follows the traditional cramming method. This character will also “succeed,” but will be depicted as a ridiculous and silly.

Rancho is the free leader who will navigate his friends out of the illogical school system that promotes copying and memorizing. Rancho likes to experiment and pursue exellence, rather than follow success and money. He will prove to his two roommates Raju and Farhan that life isn’t worth living unless you follow your passion and overcome your fears. In their adventures, the trio also meets Pia at her sister’s wedding Mona. They learn that they are the principal Virus’ daughters.

Societal pressure to perform well in school is murder

The movie depicts 3 suicide attempts: Joy Lobo, Raju and Virus’ son. For these three people, Virus is somewhat responsible for these students’ decisions to take their lives. However, Rancho, who doesn’t want to abide by the school system, always brings back optimism and hope in students.

Joy Lobo was passionate about engineering and asked Virus for a deadline extension for his senior project. He took some time off when his father had a stroke and couldn’t work on his drone. After Virus denied the deadline, Lobo commits suicide by hanging himself in his dorm room. During Joy Lobo’s funeral, Rancho approached Virus and tells him that his suicide was actually a murder. The school system murdered him by being too strict.

Raju gets in trouble and Virus gave him an ultimatum. He could either choose to be banned from the school or ban Rancho instead. Raju is incapable of choosing, so he jumped out of a 3-story building. Luckily, thanks to the hospital’s care and his friends’ love and support, he survives.

Later in the movie, we learn through Pia that her brother had also committed suicide due to their father’s pressure to study engineering when he aspired to study literature. This short scene reveals Virus’ change of heart as he understood that his unemotional mindset leads to fatal results, although he was initially well-intentioned. The central theme of suicide/giving up is constant throughout the movie, but on the other side is hope and determination.

Authentic friendship is essential to mental health

In a highly competitive environment, a good support system can make the whole difference. Having authentic friends will help you overcome anything, even suicidal thoughts. Rancho believed in supporting each other instead of competing against each other. He’s helped his two friends while they were at the bottom of the class rank. Farhan told his father that Rancho encouraged him to put a picture of his parents’ in his wallet in case he thought of suicide, so he could be reminded of the people who loved him.

Apparently, friends are more reliable than health services in India. When Raju’s father became gravely ill, Rancho rushed on Pia’s scooter to bring him to the hospital. The sad reality is expressed by Raju’s mom: you can get a pizza in 30 minutes, but you have to wait over 2 hours for an ambulance to arrive. Luckily, Rancho saved Raju’s father’s life as his condition was critical.

Authentic friendship will last through time and distance. At the end of the movie, even if they’re split up due to Rancho’s circumstances, they haven’t forgotten their strong bond. Rancho bought Farhan’s photography books and he is proud of Raju’s blog. He even kept Pia’s scooter helmet. They haven’t forgotten about him either since Farhan faked a heart attack on a plane and Raju forgot his pants out of excitement to find Rancho.

Be your true and honest self before seeking success

Raju represents the archetype of the fearful religious fanatic who needs to support a destitute family and an unwed sister. Farhan represents the obedient student who tries to fulfill his father’s wish to become an engineer. Despite their hard work, both students ranked last at the exam.

Rancho gave them the honest blunt truth instead of promoting more cramming. He pushed Farhan to quit engineering to follow his dream of becoming a wildlife photographer and he called out Raju on his fears of living in the present moment. They made a bet that night to better their situations and started succeeding.

Although Raju and Farhan wanted to succeed in school, they couldn’t if they didn’t honor their true selves. Changes don’t happen unless we know what the root of the problem is. Farhan had to talk to his father and face the disappointment. Raju needed to not rely on his religion as a crutch. Raju’s success later on in the movie is only possible because he worked through his fears.. Once both of them made a clear path for a brighter future, they began setting themselves up for success.

More money doesn’t mean success

The movie teaches us that the obsession over money is ridiculous. At the beginning of the movie, Chatur had called Farhan and Raju to meet at their old school to brag about his ostentatious lifestyle. He shows them photos of a 3.5 million mansion with a heated swimming pool, maple wood flooring and a luxurious fast car. Farhan and Raju clearly do not care about his lavish life but would rather find their friend Rancho. At the end of the movie, Rancho realized that Chatur hasn’t changed. Chatur still confuses success with external validation such as money because it allows more material possessions, thus more bragging. Throughout the movie, we learn that his craving for external validation in school leads him to ridiculous scenes, such as his commemorative speech in front of the director.

Another character that loves money is Pia’s fiancé, Suhas. Suhas obsesses about jewelry, brands and luxury items. The trio meets him at Mona’s wedding when Suhas scolded Pia for wearing an old watch. Rancho felt the need to intervene and advised her to not marry this person because he will only bring misery to her life. To prove this, Rancho pours mint sauce on Suhas’ shoes to annoy him. Suhas curses at the waiter for dirtying his expensive shoes, which proved Rancho’s point. Suhas confirmed his obsession over money when Pia pretended to have lost her new expensive watch. He would rather enjoy material possession over her. This ended their engagement.

Anyone can achieve anything regardless of their background

Rancho, Farhan and Raju come from different backgrounds. Despite the discrepancies of their social background, the trio became the best of friends. Social background didn’t matter in an authentic friendship. Coming from a poor family didn’t prevent Raju or Farhan from pursuing their dreams and getting jobs. Later, we learn that Rancho didn’t come from a wealthy family but had taken someone’s identity to be able to pursue knowledge. He was actually the gardener’s son of a wealthy family and still managed to end up with over 400 patents and was sought after by the Japanese.

Another interesting note is that your educational background doesn’t matter if you’re determined succeed. Rancho studied engineering and doesn’t have any knowledge of Biology or medicine, but he managed to deliver Mona’s baby against all odds. Rancho remained optimistic despite the stressful circumstances, he was expelled from the school, experienced flooding rain, and even lacked electricity and proper medical equipment. Rancho didn’t let his lack of medical background define his limitations. He used his practical knowledge to create a vacuum to suck the baby’s head out of Mona’s womb. Courage and common sense saved him. The operation was a success and Rancho became a hero.

In conclusion, in India, the fear of failure causes great anxiety and depression amongst students. The school and the family’s high expectations contribute to the students’ mental pressure. Many complaints targeted the systematic long hours of memorizing lessons, which took over time for creativity and socializing. The issue with the ruthless competition of the Indian education system is that the emphasis is on the grades. Students focus on performance and ranking instead of enjoying the process of learning.

Throughout the movie, Hirani emphasized the importance of friendship and a good support system as being essential to mental health. Friends are always there to cheer each other up and call each other out on mistakes. They’ll help you deal with the high pressure from parents, exams, school expectations and even personal matters. The importance of following one’s passion is crucial because happiness brings more fulfillment than money and material possessions. There is no limitation to success, not even one’s background. Anyone can bridge the knowledge gap using common sense and patience. The key to success isn’t about how hard you work in school to please your parents or some God(s), but how much you can accomplish in life by following your heart’s calling. Staying optimistic is important as well because no matter what, “all is well.”


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