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Tamil Movie Review: Why 3 Idiots 2009 is Better Than Nanban 2012?

It supposes to be a quick post on Shankar’s Nanban but I ended up writing more especially after yesterday I watched again the well made 3 Idiots


(The guy on the far right – your right – seems better than the rest. Trust me, you will be safer watching the original 3 Idiots than the “new” idiots in Nanban – they are nowhere close to the beauty of story-telling and acting in 3 Idiots. Poster source: Indiaglitz)

The Premise

The excellent 3 Idiots was based on a 2004 novel titled Five Point Someone: What not to do at IIT written by Chetan Bhagat. It was well made and they picked the right actors for the characters. Nanban, on the other hand, is based on 3 Idiots almost scene to scene.

Indiaglitz in their review of the Nanban movie said:-

First things first. Let’s not compare ‘3 Idiots’ with ‘Nanban’. Though the latter is a faithful remake of the Aamir Khan starrer, ‘Nanban’ has its own moments.

It carries a nice theme presented in an interesting way. It drives home the point that one shouldn’t run behind success and rather pursue his/her own interests. If one develops right skill anything is possible.

I guess the people behind Indiaglitz are just trying to be nice here and nothing more. I totally agree with them – perhaps Nanban would have made more sense and entertaining if you have NOT watched 3 Idiots in the first place.

This post, however, will make more sense for those who have. Indiaglitz asks us not to compare ‘3 Idiots’ with ‘Nanban’ but how we could not do that? After all, it is almost 100% remake of 3 Idiots in many ways including many of the dialogues, settings and characters.

Shankar’s Reason on Remake

Personally, I feel Shankar do great movies which are not only engaging and entertaining but also one that is heavily fused with logic (except this) and a strong message. Just see his portfolio of blockbuster movies – Gentleman, Indian, Jeans, Mudhalvan, Boys, Anniyan, Sivaji The Boss and Enthiran.

So it was kind of surprising that he wanted to remake another movie.

3 idiots had just released then. For the mood I was in, I wanted to seen an action film but I ended up watching a comedy. My mind was not on the film but I saw the audience continuously laughing.

I got involved in the film and I felt so good at the end of it. It was a wonderful feeling and I thought our Tamil audience must also experience this. However, Nanban is not a literal translation of 3 idiots.

The movie had to be fresh and yet retain its soul. I wanted to bring it as close as possible to the Tamil audience by making it earthy and simple.

A lot of people told me that they forgot the original while watching this film. I was happy to hear that.


Unfortunately, the part where he mentions that the audience “forgot the original while watching this film (Nanban)” is stretching the facts a bit too far. Entertaining for those who have NOT seen the original – yes I agree but not for those who had watched the original.

Rancho vs Pari

3 idiots rancho movie

nanban 3 idiots vijay pari

Comparing the two movies side by side, you will be better off watching the more original, the more entertaining and more believable 3 Idiots starring Aamir Khan. Take the main character – Aamir Khan is like a thousand times better than Vijay in the same role (so does all others). Image source: New on Netflix / Youtube

By the way, this key character is based on a real person – Sonam Wangchuk:

Sonam Wangchuk (born 1 September 1966) is an Indian engineer, innovator and education reformist.

He is the founding-director of the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), which was founded in 1988 by a group of students who had been in his own words, the ‘victims’ of an alien education system foisted on Ladakh.

He is also known for designing the SECMOL campus that runs on solar energy and uses no fossil fuels for cooking, lighting or heating.


You can see a glimpse of hidden intelligence when you see Rancho the first time in 3 Idiots but you see nothing (despite trying very, very hard) when you see Pari in Nanban.

Nothing seemed natural here – Vijay seemed to be trying very hard to be that innocent but brilliant student who changes the life of his 2 friends. All the actors in Nanban seemed to be trying hard to follow the same style of the actors in 3 Idiots but do not achieve the same fluid.

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I have been thinking hard on the reasons why and I realise something – you are having the wrong people doing these comedy roles. I think it is because actors like Vijay and Jeeva have been doing too many serious movies in the past that when they finally do a comedy role, people don’t take them seriously (pun intended).

Yes, I know some of the viewers may also point Aamir Khan also had done serious roles in the past before he did 3 Idiots – one good example is Ghajini. But this is why probably he is known as Mr Perfectionist – he is able to adapt his role quite perfectly. In 3 Idiots, he does not look or act older than 25 years old when in actual fact, he was nearing 45 years old.

You don’t feel the same agony even after Jeeva’s character jumps from the top floor of the university. And once that key characters in the movie are ruined, you can kiss the whole movie good-bye as well. Everything looks just too artificial thereafter.

Virus vs Virus


(Who is the better “virus”? Boman Irani was a class better as Viru Sahastrabuddhe than Sathyaraj as Virumandi Santhanam in the same role. Image source:

Even the well talented Sathyaraj seemed to have wasted his energy and time here as well (you want to see Sathyaraj in his elements? Watch Kannamoochi Yenada and you will see why I say that he has wasted his energy and time here).

The award-winning Boman Irani who acted in the same role (as the much-hated “Virus”) in 3 Idiots has done his role just too well – In 3 Idiots, it was a clear fight between the 3 idiots and the virus but here in Nanban, Sathyaraj hardly come close and ends up playing a very minor role.

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Perhaps the filmmakers with all that raw talent and resources at their disposal should have done something different that sets Nanban apart from 3 Idiots. Perhaps the filmmakers should have localized Nanban to more South Indian settings (yes, they tried but it was not enough – speaking in Tamil instead of Hindi does not really count) – perhaps even dropping “All is Well” to something more localized in Tamil.

Saving Grace – Music

The only saving grace in Nanban is Harris Jayaraj’s music – it is good to be heard on its own although you need to forget that it was made for Nanban (if you do that, 1 + 1 ends as something else and not 2). My favourite would be Irukkaannaa – nice touch of the various background instruments by Harris.

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Good song (although given it is from Harris Jayaraj, it sounds so familiar), eye-candy visualisation but it does not really connect to the movie called “Nanban”. What is the objective of the belly dancers and scantily clothing in this song and how this narrates the core story of Nanban? At most, it is sheer exploitation of women by Shankar and it is too bad that they think that the moviegoers are only thinking of this.

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The score and the songs in 3 Idiots were not bad as well but they did a better job than Nanban on the picturization. Compare example with the above song from the 3 Idiots, I love the way, the fused the much-hated Virus into the song scene and the indirect feelings towards Rancho. In other words, there is still a continuation of the 3 Idiots story in the song as well.


I have seen 3 Idiots several times before and I still love it but Nanban, despite a “brave” attempt to rekindle the magic that 3 Idiots did, failed miserably in almost every department.

And if you are intending to watch this latest Tamil flick, I strongly suggest you not waste your time and money watching it. Despite the big names in the acting roles and film-making and having copied almost 100% of 3 Idiots which was released in 2009, this remake in Tamil sucks big time.

Don’t get me wrong – those acting in this movie is highly talented in their own standing but coming together in a remake of the 3 Idiots, something did not just click right.

It is missing the fire that we saw in Amir Khan’s 3 Idiots.

It’s sad because we were expecting something better and entertaining from the famed Shankar. If you want to watch any recent movie that is far better than Nanban, I suggest instead you watch Porali – starring M. Sasikumar.

36 thoughts on “Tamil Movie Review: Why 3 Idiots 2009 is Better Than Nanban 2012?”

  1. 3idiots movie is nothing if front of NANBAN really amazing compared 2 3idiots, nothing comedy is there in 3idiots and screenply is poor n background music scoring is very poor whereas NANBAN movie is really appreciable eventhough after watching 3idiots, thanks to SHANKAR for giving such a great movie

    1. You must be a die-hard fan because interestingly you mentioned that in 3 Idiots “screenplay is poor”. If you had watched 3Idiots and then watched Nanban, you would have realized that in Nanban, the screenplay was direct translation of the same “poor screenplay” of 3 Idiots and that includes the comedy in 3 Idiots. Ha ha.

      1. i agree. vijay totally just ruined the show in my opinion. if it were another actor who was able to pull of rancho’s character, there would still have been hope for nanban but vijay is just the cherry on top of a really gross cake

        1. Hum, who would that be, in the tamil industry? Who has enough popularity and talent to take up this huge expectations of a Shankar film? Rajnikanth only has been able to uphold this challenge, in previous films. Now, who apart from him could do so, for Nanban?
          Ajith, is too old (although, one of the highlight of 3idiots was to discover Aamir Khan in his younger teenage-y avatar), and Dhanush is too grounded in tamil independant cinema to play up the entertainment part.
          Who is left, if the only actor/performer who is favourite of whole generations? Who if not VIJAY?
          I can easily see Tamanna or Asin in Ileana’s role. But No one I see for the role of Pari.
          Let’s stop criticising Shankar’s work, as it COULD not have been better than what it came up to be.

  2. I agree totally! The movie nanban doesn’t have the same oomph as the well-loved 3 idiots. To me, i would prefer the actor- villain from ‘BABA’ to act as virus in nanban,for it would surely give a better feel in the movie despite the fact that Sathyaraj is a wonderful actor. Vijay’s role in nanban doesn’t have the same quality,as Amir Khan’s in 3 idiots. Ofcourse, no one would have expected director Shankar to take the film a 100% like the 3 idiots.(which is ofcourse a very sad thing to hear.) I bet this would be a big dissapointment for Shankar FANS!!!

    1. Ya right! If you think Nanban is better than 3 Idiots, please make your case instead of making general, “lame” statements. As far as I am concerned, I have watched both and having Shankar on board, I have expected something better (or at least at par) in Nanban. It was a huge disappointment

      1. 3 idiots was a million times better than NANBAN. I like Vijay, I watch all his movies but NANBAN is a disappointment for me. His is a talented actor. But NANBAN really didnt show it. Maybe I’ll appreciate NANBAN more if i didnt watch 3 Idiots. But having to compare a super movie like 3 Idiots, NANBAN does sucks. I appreciate & thank you for your honest review BJ. Keep it up.

  3. I didn’t watch 3 Idiots so I didn’t have any emotional ties the screenplay, actors, or anything prior to watching Nanban. Nanban was entertaining and the music was enchanting. I loved Sathyaraj in the professor role and Vijay has a type of youthful charm that I can’t imagine Amir Khan pulling off the same. He looks too old for a student, i think he was probably in his 40’s when he did that role. LOL in that sense maybe the intelligence you saw was good old wisdom that comes with old age, just kidding! But they definitely should have used a younger actor.

    Again, because I didn’t watch 3 Idiots, the scene where one of the friends jump out of the window drew me in emotionally, because of the element of surprise, which of course for someone having watched 3 Idiots would be hard to conjure. I am looking forward to watch 3 Idiots and comparing Nanban, it will be a hard comparison regardless of the fact that 3 Idiots came first. After reading your criticism I am more curious to watch 3 Idiots, I was truly satisfied with Nanban. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Uma. As I mentioned earlier “Nanban would have made more sense and entertaining if you have not watched 3 Idiots in the first place” but if you had watched 3 Idiots, then you will see Nanban in a whole new different perspective.

      Yes, Amir Khan was in the 40s but in 3 Idiots, he looked so young (he lost 10 kgs just to play the character) but that’s beside the point. His acting as Rancho is what made the big difference. Even the climax seemed pale in Nanban as compared to 3 Idiots – I guess it was the location (see

    2. ” …Vijay has a type of youthful charm that I can’t imagine Amir Khan pulling off the same”

      excuse me while i go laugh at the irony of this staement.

      at least vijay changed sth about the character. vijay was being condescending throughout he movie while aamir khan played the character so well that I will never be able to forget 3 idiots, because of him. Vijay’s acting may seem better in nanban, but only because his latest string of movies were basically all the same with different titles and leading actresses.

  4. ur bollywood industry is totally full of idiots ,without south india no bollywood at all india’s best director , music director & technicians are from south india &more over aamir khan is a kid in front kamal haasan this review is the worst ,u ass hole try to do better next time. now bollywood idiots are doing remake they dont care about only money.but in south india story,script must different&good so dont mess up

    1. Are you commenting for the sake of commenting or is there a point (somewhere) in your comments?

      To say that without South India, there is no Bollywood is not only sounds stupid but it tends to show that you does not grasp the facts well. And this is not a popularity contest between Aamir Khan and Kamalahasan – both are talented in their own ways and it would not been easy to simply say one is better than the other in same role unless they have acted the same role in the past and even Kamalahasan have acted in some bad movies in the 1980s – 1990s.

      Making remakes is part and parcel of the film industry – you can always find good stories in films of other languages but the point is – whilst remakes is fine, what is not fine is a bad remake. Unfortunately, Nanban falls in this category.

    2. P.s. You said “in south india story, script must different & good” – really?

      I just watched Vaadaa – 2010 Tamil action film directed by A. Venkatesh and starring Sundar C. I stopped watching after the first 10 minutes of so. Why?

      Because in this movie, the hero kills the Governor from a temple (he is at least 3-4 story high), the police managed to rush up the structure and shoots him (the hero gets one at the heart), the hero falls down a good 3-4 story structure but lands without smashing head on the hard pavement, the bullet that he got earlier seemed missing, he runs towards a motorcycle with a least 20 policemen running and shooting at him at close range but he did not get any bullet to his body, the hero “hot-wires” the motorcycle in least than 5 seconds and escapes.

      Sundar C is a good actor – acting was not bad but overall the movie was sucked – why? Because it was not logic and the story-telling was bad. If this is the kind of script that falls under your “good script” category, all the best for future South India film industry and audiences like you.

    3. hi kamal hassan is not even in the picture when comparing 3 idiots with nanban. please watch the movies before you start commenting

  5. hello what are you doing here? are you a film critic or just an urban “eccentric” personality with a net connection and a blog ? – eccentric that is you. you wd ve received some respect from your blog viewers if you had tried a different touchstone to place your opinion. rather than the “no brainer” “i have seen 3 idiots a 100 time”
    1. every common film goer in tn knows a certain thing – a remake from hindi to tamil will be garnered with slippers whereas a mediocre attempt in the reverse direction wd be looked at with a considerable positive lens.
    2. another myth to be clarified: the script of the film (hirani et al) is a disgrace to an educated brain. the logic are awful. (just watch 3 idiots for a 101 th time without being carried away by the clean shaved fair skins). being said one thing should be made clear – 3 idiots thus by any means is NOT A CLASSIC. it is simply a FLAWED FILM THAT CLICKED BECAUSE OF THE SO CALLED “AAMIR THE PERFECTIONIST” MYTH. just think how people ran mad when there is AAMIR’s name attached to any project. also a similar myth is “aamir redefined natural acting in 3 idiots…sigh”
    can it become anymore blunt?
    you are just one among those confused fellows who just think that anything that is branded and popular is genius.
    no point in wasting a single minute in you and similar blogs.
    many will understand this and sooner or later all of you will vanish from netscape without trace and talked about of how some people spoiled journalism because of the freedom the internet gave to tom dick and harry.

    1. Thanks for “wasting your time” in my blog but the fact remains – one need not be a professional film critic to know that when 3Idiots and Nanban is put together, 3 Idiots has an edge (the fact that you have watched it for 101th time speaks for itself). Further it is an ironic that you prefer to say that 3Idiots’ “script of the film (hirani et al) is a disgrace to an educated brain. the logic are awful” – what script & logic that Nanban used then?

    2. you seem quite affected by fair-skins and them being shaved. are you sure you are not ethno-centric, with regards to being tamil vs hindi?

  6. I have just watched Nanban. I watched 3 idiots 2 years ago, when it came out as well.
    I have to admit that, the screenplay or so to say, the BOOK on which it is based probably does 90% of both films. Now, the direction makes up for 9% of the film in my view. Raj Hirani is one of the most gifted director in Bollywood: he has a style and is independent from the “commercialism and marketing” whirpool that film productions go through nowadays. As for Shankar, he is a master mind of his own too. After the gigantism of Endhiran, I think Nanban is an unexpected surprise from him: no effects, no gimmicks, no 3d, just pure directing.
    I appreciated both films at their time for the performances: the main trio shows excellent chemistry in both films, and the acting is up to the standards of the director’s venture. When you watch them, you don’t worry about what they have done before, or will do after, you just ENJOY their dialogue delivery and their roles.
    Still, as a young person, I identify more with Nanban. Because these 3 youthful looking guys to me ARE college students and breathe it in and out. Nothing to do with stardom or incognito-ness. They create the feel good magic (thanks to Shankar, of course). However, I believe that among all three, Jeeva’s role is the most convincing in “originality”. He did a totally different job than Sharman Joshi. Also, Silencer is at moments the star of the tamil film, which I think enhances the role of “absent Pari”.
    Nanban is WORTH the watch, even if you have seen 3 idiots, simply because it is one of those rare memorable, well-crafted and emotionally clutching entertainer with traditional values…

  7. 3 idiots is better than nanban,dont compare the great actor amir khan with vijay,vijay is zero in front of amir khan,in 3 idiots amir khans role is as an genious student,vijay does not have a look of a genious student

  8. nanban is very good movie. Ilayathalabathy is a good actor. Nanban 30 day collection was tamil and telugu is 250 crore

  9. in all honesty; i almost walked out of the cinema watching “nanban” as I have watched the 3 idiots before. My expectation was a beautiful remake with a nice south indian “nanbargal” feel. It was a total letdown to see a full copycat to every script; actions & expressions. Did anyone noticed: (1) The dialouges were so monotonous from start till the end (2) Vijay was behaving more like himself (superstar) than a student (3) The camera with the wide angle shots – so overused! just couldnt take soo many scenes with the wide angle shots. Even durings the frends intimate conversations on top of the tower; the camera was showing a wide angle skyview of the cityline! Where was the focus. I will not be surporsed if the locations were the same as the 3 idiots. Shame on the director…no originality. All the big stars in the movie were reduced to some sunday matnee TV movie stars.. Sad.

  10. Hello! I’m actually a Chinese and the first time watching ‘The Three Idiots’ was actually very entertaining. It’s a very superb movie plus it’s like super hilarious. It was so worth watching it. And while I came across the advertisement of ‘Nanban’ in Astro, I thought they might be screening The Three Idiots again for it’s advertisement was so similar to the storyline of ‘The Three Idiots’ and I was perplexed when it was actually ‘Nanban’. And I got quite disappointed when Nanban is actually like another remake of the three idiots itself. Sad case.

  11. i think all of this idiots are all hindi well i am american so listen to me nanban is nearly 5x as funny as 3 idiots

  12. NANPAN Is an ass film.I have never seen a movie’s ideals so poorly executed!!
    This stupid junk must not exist

  13. I appreciate a good movie when I see one… 3 Idiots was the best comedy drama I’ve ever seen in my life even better than any Jim Carey movie… when I watched it on 2009 I was so amazed I even thought it is produced and directed by someone from hollywood… then just lately I was looking for video of silencer speech in youtube… then I came across Nandan… then I watched it first of all the background music was awful.. In respect to 3 idiots I watched Nandan… In respect to Nandan I may say it was good but wasn’t as brilliant as 3 idiots.. If your going to remake a movie you should atleast be close but -_- Aamir Khan is the face of Indian movies it was then that I enjoyed a sing and dance scene in a movie in my lifetime… He is the reason why a lot of people I know started watching Indian movie. 1 of my friend downloaded all of Aamir Movies… 3 Idiots is number 1… Its like Micheal Jordan no.23 nobody is allowed to use that number anymore in chicago bulls cause no bull can be greater than Mike… Same as 3 Idiots no remakes can match this… ^_^ Peace

    1. Nanban has impressed me very much.The reason why you don’t like Nanban might be that you don’t know Tamil.It grossed more than 45 Million U.S.D (250 Crores).

  14. From my point of view they were the exact same minus the songs actors and language. But wasn’t nanban supposed to be pretty much an exact remake of 3 idiots but in Tamil? Vijay and jeeva are my favorite actors of all time and I am Tamil if you haven’t figured that out yet

  15. Good Comparison But Always 3idiots were Awesome, heart touching,funny, some scenes my tears round in my eyes.
    Amir khan is Excellent actor, but vijay is not well as a college student, however vijay is only for action movies. this was the bad decision by shankar.
    Surya,vikram,arya,dhanush is best for that role, surya already proved in one of his movie ‘varanam ayiram’, sorry I’m not a fan of surya.
    Vijay’s acting was very poor in emotional scenes,Also he is not look like a college student.

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