Recently, I was rewatching The Office for the nth time. (Who isn’t? I mean, it’s quarantine. Not like that affected my routine in any way.) And I noticed a familiar Omi Vaidya and I pointed at the screen and exclaimed, “Hey, Chatur!”
Omi gained overnight success in India, thanks mostly to his character Chatur’s speech in 3 Idiots.
2009’s 3 Idiots was a groundbreaking film that revolved around the lives of three aspiring engineering students.
Unlike today’s time, a movie about engineering college and students was considered novel in 2009. Interestingly, the movie’s dialogues even managed to seep into our everyday lingo. Is that a good thing?
Chatur’s speech in 3 Idiots is not funny anymore
I still remember my 3 Idiots theatre experience like it was yesterday. For your reference, I was just a high school student. Probably not the right age to watch a movie about three immature adults who think peeing outside the dean’s house is funny. But hey, it’s an Aamir Khan film, what could go wrong?
Aamir Khan’s Rancho decides to play a prank on Omi Vaidya’s Chatur. Chatur’s speech in 3 Idiots has words like ‘chamatkaar’ and ‘dhan.’ Our notorious Rancho changes these words to ‘balatkaar’ and ‘sthan.’ I know, hilarious, right?
Rancho’s justification for this behaviour is that one should learn to understand and not to just mug up words.
So, the day of reckoning comes for Chatur. He delivers the blunderous speech in front of the entire college, dean and Minister saab – the Chief Guest.
The entire college erupts as Chatur unknowingly utters ‘balatkaar,’ repeatedly. As a direct example of life imitating art, our theatre exploded with laughter, as well. Yours truly included. Theatre was packed with families. And the families were laughing at rape jokes. Wow.
Chatur’s speech in 3 Idiots was the highlight at my all-boys’ school for the remaining of the academic year. And the rampant display of sheer ignorance was nothing short of disgusting.
I refuse to dismiss this as a case of “naivety.” Chatur’s character was the one who was truly naive. We, on the other hand, knew what those words meant. And we guffawed away like a bunch of idiots. Who’s the idiot now, movie?
For a country where sexual harassment against men, women and all the third genders is a prevailing issue, rape jokes don’t help. It was an act of irresponsibility on the part of the filmmakers.
Watch Chatur’s speech in 3 Idiots here and decide for yourself
Is there a place for rape jokes in mass media?
I remember when Louis CK was chosen as a host for an SNL episode. He had included a child molestation joke in his monologue. Obviously, the monologue was met with criticism as people felt rape was too insensitive a subject to be joked about on a mainstream network. Fair.
However, some defended his jokes by saying CK addresses the fact that rape is a horrible thing. Personally, I feel SNL isn’t the right place for a rape joke. I mean, SNL doesn’t even allow its cast members to drop the F-bombs.
You should know your audience. Dark jokes usually never land on a massy audience. That’s why they continue to be a niche.
Also, it didn’t help Louis CK’s case when he was found guilty of sexual harassment a few years later.
Eleven years later, Chatur’s speech in 3 Idiots still gets the same reaction it got in 2009. From a personal point of view, I feel a mainstream Hindi movie starring Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor should know better than to stay away from rape jokes. You may never know what your audience decides to latch onto. You wouldn’t want that on your conscience, would ya?
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