Saving fuel, the 3 Idiots way

In the high-altitude desert of Ladakh, a quiet genius is attempting to solve a water problem: By building stupas made of ice
Saving fuel, the 3 Idiots way
Image: Courtesy Sonam Wangchuk
The prototype ice stupa, built in early 2014, stayed frozen well into the summer

In Raju Hirani’s mega hit 3 Idiots, Aamir Khan’s character Rancho turns out to be an unconventional teacher in Ladakh, who is also a brilliant inventor, Phunsukh Wangdu. The inspiration for that character, many say, is a gentleman called Sonam Wangchuk, but this is not acknowledged in the film’s credits.
On pressing him, Wangchuk says he met and chatted with Khan and his team in 2008, a few months before the film’s shooting began, at a CNN-IBN event, Real Heroes, which honoured Wangchuk and screened a short film on him and his work. (CNN-IBN is part of Network 18, the publishers of Forbes India.)

He says there are many similarities between the Rancho/Phunsuk character and his own life though the movie does not credit him in any way. He did not communicate this when the film released—“they might think I was asking for money, especially in view of the huge controversy with Chetan Bhagat over credit”—but he wrote to Khan and the producers two years later. They haven’t responded yet.

Wangchuk, 48, has put that behind him. He has way too many other things to do.

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