Farhan Qureshi (R. Madhavan), Raju Rastogi (Sharman Joshi), and Rancchoddas "Rancho" Shyamaldas Chanchad (Aamir Khan) are students at the Imperial College of Engineering, one of the best colleges in India. They are room-mates in the college's hostel. While Farhan and Raju are average students from modest backgrounds, Rancho is from a rich family. Farhan wants to become a wildlife photographer, but is pursuing an engineering degree to fulfil his father's wish. Raju, on the other hand, needs to improve his family's financial situation. Rancho is a wealthy genius who studies for the sheer joy of it. His passion is for knowledge and taking apart and building machines rather than the conventional obsession of the other students with exam ranks. With his different approach Rancho incurs the wrath of college's dean, Professor Viru Sahastrabudhhe aka ViruS (Boman Irani). Rancho irritates his lecturers by giving creative and unorthodox answers, and confronts ViruS after fellow student Joy Lobo hangs himself in his dormitory room. Rancho denounces the rat race, dog-eat-dog, mindless rote learning mentality of the institution, blaming it for Lobo's death.
Threatened by Rancho's talent and free spirit, ViruS labels him an "idiot" and attempts, on a number of occasions, to destroy his friendship with Farhan and Raju, warning them and their parents to steer clear of Rancho. ViruS's model student is Chatur Ramalingam or "Silencer", (Omi Vaidya) who sees a high rank at a prestigious college as his ticket to higher social status, corporate power, and wealth. Chatur conforms to the expectations of the system. Rancho humiliates Chatur, who is awarded the honor of making a speech at an award ceremony, by substituting obscenities into the text, which has been translated into Hindi by the librarian. As expected, Chatur mindlessly memorises the speech, without noticing that anything is amiss, partly aided by his lack of knowledge on Hindi. His speech becomes the laughing stock of...
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