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This Bollywood blockbuster was surprisingly good. I don’t normally recommend movies, but this movie was so enchanting that I’m going to publicly proclaim its virtues on the internet world.

Like any typical Bollywood comedy, this movie comes with fun bangra dancing, a typical good vs evil plot played out by a standard set of brilliant, carefree good guys vs. stodgy , impotent bad guys, and a cheesy, serendipitous love story – all ingredients that make for a fun and enjoyable comedy.

In between the dazzling dance numbers and catchy ballads, however, runs a surprisingly deep dialogue that touches on sensitive, asian themes such as filial duty vs. individualism. It surprises me how much of an impression this movie has made on me as I felt I could identify with a lot of the issues that were brought up.

Set among the halls of the top engineering school in India, the story follows three freshmen dorm mates who have to endure an onslaught of tests, quizzes, and term papers designed to weed out weaker students. As the rest of the engineering students accept the nature of the  hyper-competitive, dog-eat-dog environment, one dissenting freshman, “Rancho”, bravely questions the fundamentals beliefs that perpetuate such an inhumane, high-pressure system that pits students versus other students. He constantly irritates his professors with his nagging questions and witty remarks, winning over the opinion of fellow students while enflaming the old school, disciplinarian professors.

Rancho is the hip, Indian reincarnation of Socrates who defies conventional wisdom – much to the ire of his professors and friends’ parents – and refuses to participate in perpetuating the hyper-competitive nature of the academic environment. He hoses himself down outside in front of hundreds instead of clamoring like animals for a shower stall. He tinkers with machines instead of flipping through pages of text. He counsels his friends to question and defy their own subservient attitude that lives out their parents’ wishes rather than explore their own passions. In all his actions and words he champions thoughtful learning over thoughtless repetition, understanding over memorization, and love over duty. He is particularly relevant to asian society today as we are often prodded into obedience by our parents’ threats of impending poverty, destitution, and shame. In a way, Rancho stands as the hero who battles the forces of the ‘group’ that forcefully imposes its burdensome will on the weak individual.

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