Fenil and Bollywood

Education devoid of curiosity is dead-Abhijat Joshi

Posted on: January 18, 2010

Abhijat Joshi tells Lekha Menon why he would never lampoon institutions and how walking is the best inspiration to write good scripts

By Lekha Menon (MUMBAI MIRROR; January 17, 2010)

On a two-month break from teaching at the Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, Abhijat Joshi, is basking in 3 Idiots’ success story. “We just wanted to make a good film; we never intended it to be a Titanic,” he chuckles, even as he moves on to his next script with Raju Hirani.

Abhijat talks passionately about ideas that fuel him – be it in the realm of cinema or education. And it isn’t difficult to see why. Hailing from a family of professors, he himself taught at an arts college in Ahmedabad before moving to the US for an MFA from the University of Texas, Austin. And as a teacher, he is thrilled to “take Premchand, Manto and Gandhi to students there.”

In many ways, he is an example of the ‘follow your heart, success will follow’ maxim. Abhijat was training to be an engineer but then switched to arts. No wonder the ace screenwriter is quick to defend the criticism that 3 Idiots negates the process of formal education.

Pic: Rana chakraborty

• Your partnership with Raju Hirani has delivered some of the most successful films in recent times. What explains your chemistry with him?

During Lage Raho Munnabhai, Raju especially wanted my assistance for the Gandhigiri scenes. Having been educated in the Gujarati medium I had access to Gandhi’s philosophies in the language. Later, we realised we had a lot in common – our vision of cinema, ideas and values.

As in cricket, a successful creative partnership also depends on the small nuances – knowing when to talk and when to keep silent, for instance. We just clicked.

We do a lot of our writing while walking. A few days back we took a walk in the Borivali National Park and didn’t stop until we completed a scene.

Walking gives us an adrenaline rush, it pumps our writing! In the US, we walk around all the parks of Westerville. We must have covered hundreds of miles by now!

• Does your growing-up years reflect in your scripts?

A lot. Memories of childhood pranks, youth and college years will always be reflected as they shape you. For instance, the ‘All is Well’ refrain is an inspiration from a chowkidaar who used to scream that every night.

Similarly, there used to be a joke in my science class – ‘Frogs legs fetch two marks’! There were so many body parts to remember, students would just mug up those that were necessary to get marks. I was inspired by these moments.

• What is your take on the argument that 3 Idiots dismisses the formal process of education? For all the flak that our system faces, they have thrown up some brilliant minds.

I agree. Institutions must be respected. Nowhere are we questioning formal education. But we need to see what is wrong with them and what can be done – it’s purely constructive criticism. Not a single scene says students mustn’t study or work hard.

But why should joy vanish from studies? I wouldn’t recommend students becoming slack towards education; only, they need to love what they learn.

• So is there a solution?

Maybe we need to question the way of studying. There should be a desire to learn. Unfortunately in our education system, there is no curiosity and education devoid of curiosity is dead.

• How different is the students’ response and approach in the US?

Studies there is aptitude oriented. But the enthusiasm of students is similar. I feel that if the teacher is good, students give a good response.

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