Prakash Jha directorial Pareeksha – The Final Test is all set for its digital release on ZEE5. Starring Adil Hussain, Priyanka Bose, Sanjay Suru and Shubham Jha, the film has been inspired by real-life events involving the education system. The story will also showcase the experience of IPS officer Abhayanand Singh who tutored meritorious students from low-income families for various entrance examinations.
In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Jha spoke about the genesis of Pareeksha, working on real subjects and the digital medium.
Excerpts from the conversation:
How did the story of Pareeksha come to you?
The core of the story has been with me since childhood. I also used to travel to a convent school via a rickshaw, and I would always wonder about the kid of that rickshaw puller and even the peon in the school. Then Abhayanand once told me the story of the time he was posted in Jahanabad, which is a Naxal-afflicted area. Sometimes, when they would raid, they wouldn’t find the Naxals but would come across their children. These kids, once they overcame the fear of speaking to a police officer, would turn out to be so expressive. There were many success stories that came from there, when they were provided with the right education. That’s how the story came into being. There have been so many real-life stories of people who have faced several hurdles to give their kids basic education.
In the current scenario, when online education is the norm, a lot has been spoken about privilege, given many still cannot afford smartphone and internet. Do you think people will connect more with the film?
I don’t know if it will, but sadly that’s the truth of our society. Banks are ready to give loans to the ones who have money than the one with no asset. The rich only become richer, and the other section continues to struggle. It’s tragic, and this is why I think we need to keep making such films.
Do you think films can bring about a change or at least start a conversation?
Honestly, I have no idea. I haven’t studied that. I do have people come up to me to say that they watched my films 50-100 times. But when I look around, I don’t see much change. However, that shouldn’t deter me, and I have to keep making these films.
What do you want people to take back from Pareeksha?
I want them to enjoy it. It’s a beautiful story. For inspiration, they can just look around. Recently, when the board results were announced, we read about so many brilliant stories. From a girl staying in footpath all her life passing the exams, to a young child climbing up a mountain to get network. All these are inspirational tales and will make you understand the extent one has to go to get the opportunity to study in the country.
You seem to have a penchant for making films on real and rooted stories?
I am not too educated. Hence, I don’t have stories from America or England (laughs). I do connect with stories that are rooted and also find them interesting. However, when it comes to films, I think what matters is the story. The audience needs to be gripped by the tale.
Pareeksha was appreciated when it was screened at festivals. How different is that experience compared to box office numbers?
The appreciation you get is humbling, and so is the box office numbers. When your films do well, you do feel happy about it. But in this situation, when there is no clarity when your film will release, you have to move to the OTT platform. It weighs you down as the business is not as much as you expected it would do at the box office. Hence the appreciation is valuable as it pushes you to do well.
How do you think film releases would be balanced out between theater and OTT in the coming days?
I don’t know. I am hopeful that we will ride over Covid and cinema halls would start functioning soon. I own a chain of multiplex myself, so I know about the loss.
Given it is your digital debut, what is your take on the medium and does it interest you as a creator?
I have just finished a web series and am also setting up a couple of films. However, it is too early for me to comment on the medium right now. There are a lot of content being made and am sure there is an audience. I would be at a better position to comment once Pareeksha releases and I get the audience’s feedback.
Lastly, given that you also enjoy acting, was there a moment when you thought you should play the lead role in Pareeksha?
(Laughs) Not at all. When I have to direct, I cannot act. I tried it once with Jai Gangaajal, and it was a tough time. Acting is a serious business and once has to focus a lot. I cannot talk about it, but I did act in a film, and it is ready to go to festivals.
Pareeksha will start streaming from August 6 on ZEE5.
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