Name one film focussing on classroom scenes that didn’t show backbenchers to be “cool.”
Are you thinking of an answer to that question? Fret not. There might be a few. Especially the ones that focus on the “studious geniuses.” But that’s all immaterial.
You see, I was a frontbencher for most of my academic life. Not always the first bench, but at least the first few. Preferably.
What? I’m uncool? Pssstt! 😋😋
That did change in college a few times because of two reasons :
1. There were no fixed classrooms, let alone seating spots, in college.
2. I thought, what the heck! Let’s sample this backbencher crap! You know, look cool and all that jazz.
But honestly, I have always attended classes to learn from the lecture. If I wanna chill, why bother attending? I would rather roam around the campus than sit at the back and be judged by the faculty. This was one of the main reasons why I preferred the front benches. The back ones mostly had some parallel agendas going on.
And then we have the movies! Take 3 Idiots for example. I loved the novel it was partly based on (had no idea its style would turn out to be Chetan Bhagat’s infamous MO) and liked the film’s basic idea too (“Pursue excellence, and success will follow, pants down”). But I think a lot of what they showed was utter BS. Honest to God!
I could do a scene-by-scene deconstruction but that’s not what we are after here. The heroes of that movie, like a lot of other films, are backbenchers. People who are enlightened. People who know there’s more to life than books, rote learning and grades. People who are popular, who have more enjoyment (like the kids in the image at the top). People who are cool! And the frontbencher is the total opposite of all these, in addition to being a boring, vindictive, antisocial, sycophantic douchebag, the quintessential bad guy of the non-action movie. That, for lack of a better word, is unfair.
Sure, you would find a many people who are great successes in life despite being backbenchers and average students. You might also have come across WhatsApp forwards where everyone from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates to Ratan Tata praises the adaptability and innovative spirit of the backbencher, the “jugaad“of the Indian. See this image for instance :
And there will be an equal number of people who made it despite being the unimaginative ones who sit in the front rows, the ones derided by the movies.
What am I getting at, you say? This weird fascination movies have of showing last bench students blossoming into leaders and innovators and front benchers grovelling before them, when life eventually happens. Sure, there are cases like that. But that situation isn’t in the league of ” The Sun Rises In The East,” or even, “Manchester United have a red and white jersey,” you know, Universal truth and all that.
Bill Gates is one of the most, if not the most, famous college dropouts (Harvard). Still, he asks students not to be like him. This is what he has to say :
“Although I dropped out of college and got lucky pursuing a career in software, getting a degree is a much surer path to success,” he writes.
“College graduates are more likely to find a rewarding job, earn higher income, and even, evidence shows, live healthier lives than if they didn’t have degrees. They also bring training and skills into America’s work force, helping our economy grow and stay competitive.”
He adds, “It’s just too bad that we’re not producing more of them.”
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People can, and do, succeed from all sorts of positions. And the frontbencher we so choose to mock in our cinema are the ones who wish to pay attention in class. Or, if I’m to be humble, the stupid ones who feel that they’d not be able to grasp what the faculty is teaching if they sat at the back of the class. And no, they aren’t all mean either. Like all stereotypes, this is also a cliché. Good people are not an exclusive privilege of the back benches, just as grades aren’t the sole domain of the front rows.
More than anything, what such depictions manage to do is influence young kids (school-going and collegians alike) that it is “cool” to sit at the back and not pay attention to what’s being taught. While I accept the theory of “to each his own,” I find it a little difficult to understand why he/she should even be in the class if there is no intention to learn?
Does this feel like a rant? Let me clear the cobwebs (if there are any!). Yes, it is. All kinds of people work hard and succeed. And no, if you skip labs and lectures (like the 3 Idiots), your faculty won’t always grace you with high grades. More likely, they’ll make it a point to teach you a lesson to be regular in the class. Being curious is okay, being disrespectful isn’t.
And oh, I understand that people sitting on different benches (both front and back) is a logical requirement. Not everyone can sit in the same place, on top of each other. 😝
Thanks for bearing with me till the end.
Where do/did you sit in your classes? What’s your opinion on the topic? Let’s have a conversation in the comments.