The Telegraph
Thursday , December 29 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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Page Vs Screen Vs Stage


When a book single-pagedly changes the face of publishing in a country, spawns a star-studded Bolly blockbuster and also avatars into a play, one wonders what to write, rather what not to write….


It’s the story of three boys, hostel life, education, expectations, emotions and hormones. It is, well, your story and ours.

The book

Chetan Bhagat’s 2004 debut novel Five Point Someone — What not to do at IIT is about the whiny Alok, the nervous Hari and the cocky Ryan. Or the responsible Alok, the tender Hari and the caring Ryan. Written mostly in Hari’s voice, this story about three friends at IIT who try to trip the system but fall smack on their faces instead is as hilarious as it is poignant. Watch out for the witty repartees…

“No damn it! Not the damn food,” Alok said…. “We are screwed, no damn doubt in that…”

I think Alok picks up a word and uses it too much, which ruins the effect. There were too many ‘damns’ in his dialogue.

… or Chetan’s canny observations, like how men find a woman’s bare foot on the car accelerator “enormously sexy”.

Above all, FPS is not “bookish”, it’s entertainment and as Silk (also known as Vidya Balan) says, entertainment sells! Okay, the language is nothing to write home about, but do we even write home anymore?! Pick it up for a breezy read about boyhood and bonding and enjoy the chuckles on the way.

The film

Director Rajkumar Hirani and producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra mounted the story on a massive canvas and gave us 3 Idiots, which smashed more box-office records than there are zeroes in an IIT grad’s salary. Of course, it wouldn’t really be right to say that 3 Idiots is based on Five Point Someone; there is much originality in the film.

Exhibit B: Ryan of the book is now Rancho, played by Aamir Khan. But to be able to romance the girl (the beautiful and bespectacled Kareena Kapoor), Aamir must play Hari. Thus Rancho is a mishmash of Ryan’s cool and Hari’s cute. Then, being Aamir Khan, Ryan, of course, cannot be a five-pointer, can he? So, Rancho is the class topper, even if he loafs around with his pals — Farhan and Raju — all the time. Being Aamir Khan, Rancho cannot just be a regular guy. So, he’s a do-gooder imposter and a brilliant scientist to boot.

Exhibit C: The girlie Neha of the book is the diva-doctor Pia of the film, played by Kareena.

[Psst: We have more exhibits than letters in the alphabet.]

The very public spat between Chetan Bhagat and the filmmakers about how much of the book is the film is stuff that dreams of book-vs-film columnists are made of. But debate aside, 3 Idiots is a film with great performances, hilarious and heart-warming dialogue and catchy songs. And Chatur Ramalingam aka Silencer. While he’s a minor character in the book, called Venkat, Omi Vaidya’s Chatur sometimes overshadows the stars in the film!

Watch 3 Idiots to see Aamir & Co. take on the country’s rote learning system, sing, dance and make you laugh. Just ignore the nagging question at the back of your head: why is a 44-year-old guy playing a college student?

The play

Five Point Someone, the play, is a revelation. Staged by Chennai-based theatre group Evam, in association with t2, at GD Birla Sabhagar on Christmas, the play is exactly like the book. And that’s saying something, given that Five Point Someone is a rather reflective book.

Much of the storytelling rests on the able shoulders — rather vocal chords — of the narrator, Karthik Kumar. Directed by Sunil Vishnu K., every line, every action, every character in the play is true to the book. Except that Hari is quite portly in the book but he’s lean and trim in the play.

The smart use of lighting, especially in the scene where Hari and Neha lie in bed talking, is rare in an Indian stage production. The performances are the other strong point. Yudhishthir Rana is superb as the sissy Alok and his half-naked debut scene, man boobs et al, was as gutsy as it was hilarious.

But we, the people, are a rather demanding lot. Somewhere along the two-hour play, one wonders what’s in it for the reader? If you’ve read the book, there’s little that’ll surprise you in the play. A slight twist in the tale would’ve added a sparkle to an already brilliant slice of stagecraft.

t2 verdict: Read the book for Chetan’s wit, watch the film for a grand feel-good factor and catch the play for some smart performances.