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Vidhu Vinod Chopra on why content matters more to him: 'I don't believe in star power'

The director-producer's 12th Fail just celebrated its silver jubilee in theatres

PTI Mumbai Published 18.04.24, 09:30 AM
Vidhu Vinod Chopra

Vidhu Vinod Chopra

Filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra says he has always believed that content trumps star power and the proof is in the success of his film "12th Fail", which just celebrated its silver jubilee in theatres.

The director-producer, known for hits such as "Parinda", "Love Story 1947", "Mission Kashmir", "Munnabhai" series and "3 Idiots", said filmmakers have to believe that "there is nothing to lose but achieve" while making a film.


"I always believed content matters. When I made 'Munna Bhai MBBS', there was no star power in the first movie but it did well. I don’t believe in star power. And the star power comes from the fact that the filmmakers have given up their power," Chopra told PTI in an interview.

"We are the ones who make the movie... We write the movie... Sorry to quote Karl Marx: 'You have nothing to lose but your chains'." The 71-year-old writer-director adapted Anurag Pathak's bestselling novel of the same name. The movie, starring Vikrant Massey and Medha Shankr, highlights the life story of Manoj Kumar Sharma who overcame extreme poverty to become an IPS officer and how his wife Shraddha played an instrumental role in his journey.

The film, which came out in theatres on October 27 last year, became a critical and commercial hit upon its release and continues to be in cinemas despite also being available on OTT platforms. The film reportedly earned over Rs 70 crore in India.

Chopra said it might sound strange but he is not someone who thinks a lot about the success or failure of a movie.

"What I think is, 'Have I succeeded or failed as a filmmaker?’. To me, that is far more important. In ‘12th Fail’, I felt good that what I went out to do, I’ve done. And when people also like that, it feels great. Box offices (numbers) are not important for me.

“The movie has made me humbler; I basically am a very arrogant man who believes in the arrogance of his heart and what this film has done has actually made me very humble and I am very grateful,” he added.

Chopra said it's encouraging to see an “intimate” movie like “12th Fail” have a strong 25-week run in theatres.

“This is a very small, intimate film and in today’s time when none of these blockbusters, as they call them, reach silver jubilee, it's heartening and humbling that a film like this did 25 weeks despite running on OTT platforms and television.” Speaking of his lead actor’s performance in the film, Chopra recalled how he was astounded by Massey's talent when he first met the actor.

“He (Massey) came to where I live, which is three hours away from Bombay in my village home. He read the script and I asked him, ‘How would you de-age?’ because I didn’t want him to use digital de-aging at all.

"He (Massey) changed his body language, sat in a child pose and did the first scene where he cheats in the film and I was very impressed. I decided that this is the actor that I want to use then and there.” Similarly, Shankr did not look like a "Hindi film heroine" but more like a real person, which impressed Chopra during the auditions.

"She looked real, unlike all other actresses, and aspirants, they were all playing Hindi film actresses but this girl was playing herself and that was endearing,” the director added.

Plans are afoot to remake “12th Fail” in Tamil, Chopra said without providing specifics.

The filmmaker said while it is difficult to choose a moment from "12th Fail", there are two scenes that stand out for him and one of them is partially inspired from his own life.

In one of the scenes in the movie, Manoj's grandmother gives all her money to him so that he can join a coaching institute in the city and the second scene is of Manoj's mother putting oil in his hair.

"...That's what my mom used to do. She would use a little bit of oil and rub it on her hand to apply on my head. I still remember and this is a crazy memory. Because I am from Kashmir, it was cold and we were not very well to do, so she used to get Ponds cream and put it on my face but then she shifted to Nivea...

"That moment for me was personal when the mother is sitting there and putting oil in the son’s hair and lying to him that they are doing well," Chopra said, recalling how his mother would always say "Main Bilkul Thik Hoon" whenever he enquired about her health and well being.

Malayalam survival drama "2018-Everyone is a Hero" was India's official entry to the Oscars this year but Chopra had also submitted "12th Fail" to the Film Federation of India, the body that decides which film will represent the country at the Oscars in the International feature category. “What FFI should do is that they should have three committees, one in East India for the Bengali films, one in the North and West India and one in South India. Let three committees choose and then one central committee decides the one film that will go (for Oscars).

"The kind of raving reviews we had from all over the world and the fact that we are amongst the top 50 films rating on IMDb so I would think 99 percent, we would have gotten nominated,” Chopra said.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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