For the second of my three movie themed posts this week I thought I would review two movies that are incredibly different in subject matter and scope—but still bear a sort of resonance on a common theme.
3 Idiots is a new movie from Bollywood that follows two college friends (Farhan and Raju) as they try and find the third of their group (Rancho) ten years after graduation. Through flashbacks we learn about their friendship in flashbacks at their college—a place similar to MIT but much more competitive. Like most Indian movies it has its fair share of drama, love and music. That being said it also takes a hard look at the pressures put on Indian kids to follow their parent’s dream rather than their own. It is also a very funny movie.
In stark contrast Up in the Air is a movie, to some extent, about loneliness and the need for human relationships. It follows frequent flier George Clooney as he travels around the country firing people from their jobs. While there are lighthearted moments, the movie is more serious than anything else and is ultimately about taking a hard look at your life and figuring out what is really worth sacrificing happiness for.
The way that the two movies link up is sort of chronological. In 3 Idiots we have three kids struggling to find the career, the job that will make them happy and excited about life. One is an engineering student because he loves it, but is stifled by the pressures of providing for his not-so-rich family (Raju). The second is, once again, in school because its what is expected of him—but all through the movie you see him taking pictures—something his parents see as a hobby rather than a career (Farhan). The third, Rancho—well his is the role of the eye-opener. The one who can see all the flaws in the system and thinks he has the answers to make everything right. He is the questioner, he is the one who asks why we memorize definitions instead of thinking creatively. He is the one who asks why many students in India are encouraged towards the paths leading toward the most wealth, rather than the career they would be the most inspired. I often joke with my other Indian-American friends that there are only five acceptable careers for kids of Indian decent (Doctor, Lawyer, Finance/Business, Engineering, Dentist). It took some considerable convincing on my part to change my parent’s mind about the validity of being a historian—and I know that a lot of this has to do with the hard work and sacrifice my parents had in coming to this country and making their own way.
The idea of working toward something you love is also dealt with in Up in the Air. In this movie the questioner is Clooney’s character who asks the individuals he is firing what they could do if they could suddenly reinvent their life. He presents being fired as a way to make dreams come true, that now these individuals are free to take those steps they were too afraid or barred from taking earlier in life. Now they are free to take steps towards their passion. He asks a father to look at his kids, and ask himself if the job he is losing is something that will make them look up to him. (A statement that I don’t necessarily agree with, since it is not what you do that makes your kids look up to you, but how you act and treat others.)
I know neither of these movies necessarily have anything to do with history, but they have to do a lot with the idea of finding your lot in life, your calling. That no matter what stage in life you are it is not too late to step back and reevaluate what truly makes you happy. For me it is all about finding inspiration around me, and sharing that inspiration with others—and taking what comes next to inform and influence the mind and spirit at the same time.
What about you?