Prakash Jha, Adil Hussain on telling the story of a rickshaw-puller's quest for son's education in ZEE5 film Pareeksha

Prakash Jha tackles the issue of education for the underprivileged in Pareeksha: The Final Test, that releases today on 6 August on ZEE5.

Seema Sinha August 06, 2020 08:54:41 IST
Prakash Jha, Adil Hussain on telling the story of a rickshaw-puller's quest for son's education in ZEE5 film Pareeksha

National Award-winning filmmaker Prakash Jha, in his career spanning almost four decades has often brought political and socio-political issues to celluloid, be it bonded labour in Damul, gender injustice in Mrityudand, the abduction industry in Apaharan, India's corrupt police force in Gangaajal, caste-based reservation in Aarakshan or Naxalism in Chakravyuh. Jha’s upcoming film, Pareeksha — The Final Test, deals with education. More specifically, it is the story of a poor man, a rickshaw wallah’s desire to provide his son with education and opportunities on a par with the children from affluent families he is acquainted with.

“This is the story of one rickshaw wallah who ferries children every single day to the door-steps of the school where his child can never get admission. He thinks that all the opportunities for surging ahead in life are taken away by the privileged and our children never get anything. He aspires of getting his child admitted to the same school. He tries everything to do that, and further, to sustain the child in that school is a nightmare for him. The forces, the class difference, the system is such that they deny the child rightful position," says Jha. "It's a personal story of a dream and struggle.  The film has gone to festivals and people have really liked it. It has a lot of messages and emotions. It should work well,” he adds.

Pareeksha had its premiere at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goa in 2019, and is set to stream on ZEE5 from 6 August.

Pareeksha is based on a real story the filmmaker learnt of through a former top cop, a DGP (Director General of Police), in his home State, Bihar.  “When Mr Abhyanand, an IPS officer and an educationist, told me about him going to the Naxal villages in Jahanabad, where he was posted as SP (Superintendent of Police), and while in search of the Naxals, he would come across their children. As he spoke to these children, he found that they had tremendous native talent, so much so that he was inspired to teach those children. This was the story where supposedly children of criminals were even given the opportunity to succeed in life. This was one hook and thread which eventually developed into the story,” says Jha.

“But the core of the story has been with me since childhood. I also used to travel to a convent school in a rickshaw, and I would always wonder about the kid of that rickshaw-puller.

I have always said that education is the most important aspect of development. It is important to everyone and to people who are striving hard to achieve something. I have seen to what lengths people go to be able to put their children in school,” says Jha.

He shot the film in Ranchi, where he filmed his debut Hip Hip Hurray, in 1982. “It was exciting to go back there after 35 to 36 years,” he said.

Adil Hussain plays the rickshaw-puller, Bucchi Paswan, while Priyanka Bose and Sanjay Suri play supporting roles. “I knew Adil from before. I was convinced that he was the right guy to play Bucchi by the time I was done narrating the story to him. He is a brilliant actor. He is very honest, as a person and as an actor as well,” says Jha.

Hussain says he got attracted to the subject “because of the truthfulness of the story." “When Mr Jha narrated, he never told me that it is a true story. After he finished with the narration over a lunch in a restaurant in Assam, the first question I asked him was if it was a true story. When a story touches you, and it has the strength of truth, it rings truer to the audience, to the actors when it is told well. So that was my love at first sight with the script. Education is very close to all of us in our family. When I read the script, I felt how we are not only depriving children from the economically marginalised society, with enormous talent, but most importantly, we are depriving the nation of gaining from this high-end quality talent,” says the actor, who was delighted to work with Jha.

“Mr Jha also operates the camera, and that is another advantage to work with him because he visualises the film. But the best part of him is that he let the actor be. He doesn’t tell you how to act. He makes you understand the scene, and gives you a rough area to move, and then he captures the scene, which is fantastic,” said Hussain.

When asked how different was the experience releasing the film on an OTT platform, Jha said, “OTT has its own advantages but every filmmaker’s wish is to have their film release in cinema because cinema gives you that kind of appointed time, captive audience, and it gives you the real-life experience. OTT will not give that real-life experience.”

And since Pareeksha talks about the haves and the have nots, the privileged and the underprivileged, it was important to raise the widely discussed topic of the 'Bollywood Privilege Club,' to which Jha shot back saying, “But in which industry we don’t have this? I can’t specifically talk about the film industry. It is everywhere — in family, society, politics, education. It has not been very easy or difficult for me to survive. Everybody gets to work here but at the same time, there is only a certain number of people who get a certain kind of work. And of course, there are people who are known, are more famous, or have families in business. It is human nature the way things happen. It is part of everyone’s struggle,” he concludes.

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