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Sonam Wangchuk: 3 Idiots was not my biopic, Says the real-life Phunsukh Wangdu

Ladakhi educationist Sonam Wangchuk was the ‘inspiration’ for Aamir Khan’s character in the 2009 film, 3 Idiots. But the constant questions about the film have left Wangchuk completely fed up.

Sonam Wangchuk, who is famously known as ‘the real-life Phunsukh Wangdu from 3 Idiots’ , is “fed up” of answering questions about the character or the film. “[3 idiots] was not a biopic that was based on me; it was just ‘inspired’. Let it be just that — a story for entertainment,” says Wangchuk, who was in Delhi recently to attend a fund-raiser for his latest initiative, the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives (HIAL), Ladakh.

After all these years, Wangchuk still gets questions about the film, but he’s averse to using any of that for publicity or financial gains. Why’s that? “You don’t have to reinforce this obsession the nation already has,” Wangchuk says. “[The country] is not doing well in terms of inventions — na chamatkaar na avishkaar ho rahe hain, kyunki sab toh filmein kar leti hain (there are no innovations, no discoveries, because all that happens in the movies),” he adds with a laugh. “[People think that] ‘why do we need to do anything, when our heroes are there to do everything... in films?’ I don’t want to reinforce that.”

Innovative school

Wangchuk’s fame springs from his innovative school, the Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), whose campus runs on solar energy and uses no fossil fuels for cooking, lighting, or heating. It also nurtures the cultural heritage of Leh Ladakh. While the school was founded in 1988, its founder became renowned across India when it was revealed that the quirky, brilliant character of Wangdu (played by Aamir Khan) in 3 Idiots was based on him.

Wangchuk isn’t dismissive about the idea of a well-researched film based on his life, but he feels that the movies shouldn’t distract people from the reality. “Chamatkaar-avishkaar sach mein karne ki zaroorat hai (We need innovation and discoveries in real life),” says the educationist. “I have no problem if people feel that there’s value [in a biopic]. If it helps the things I’m passionate about, then I’m okay with it.”

‘Need to reground ourselves’

The 51-year-old innovator feels that India’s education system is to be blamed for the wayward behaviour of teenagers. “We’re outdated and out of place in all education, be it lower [level] or higher. Young people in their twenties spend three-four years doing things that are behind the times. We’re capturing such people in a classroom for a lecture. We need to reground ourselves and see how evolution has taught us,” says Wangchuk, pointing out, “Today, it’s all about buttons and papers. No wonder, teenagers become violent, because the energy designed by nature to face the real world is captured. [This energy] then comes out in the form of breaking things and so on. We blame them, but our system is bad.”

‘Every theory should be applicable’

HIAL is a crowdfunded university, for which you can donate whatever amount you wish till January 26, 2018. Wangchuk aims to raise Rs 14 crore for the first school under HIAL. He tells us what’s different about this university: “It responds in two ways — doing things that we really need; and the way we’re evolved for going outdoors to do less things in the classroom. Every theory should be applicable, that’s how it becomes unforgettable. Don’t blame the child for forgetting lessons; make the lessons unforgettable.”

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