Prakash Jha’s latest film, Pareeksha The Final Test is a take on the class divide of our society, and not as much on education system (as the title would make you believe). Starring Adil Hussian, Priyanka Bose, Shubham and Sanjay Suri in main roles, the film premiered Wednesday on Zee 5.
Pareeksha opens on a very endearing note as Buchi (Adil) makes his way into your hearts with his innocent persona. We are first introduced to the world he works for – the rich and the privileged living in Ranchi. Buchi works as a rickshaw puller for the top private school in town – Sapphire International – and ferries students who live nearby.
Adil on a poster of Pareeksha.
Buchi’s endearing persona makes him a hit with the children and their parents — the children love his singing as he takes them to school while teachers and school staff spend many an hour conversing with him. That is not a usual sight in the region, as it is run by unwritten rules of caste as well as class divide. However, the faultlines do emerge as the film progresses, but more of that later.
The director shows us a happy family, where the parents — both Buchi and his wife (Priyanka) — work to fulfil the family’s financial needs, a brilliant child Bulbul (Shubham) and a strict yet helpful boss. However, everything comes crashing as Buchi dares to dream. When he sees a few students throwing away their books, he collects them for Bulbul who tells him they are useless for him as they are not for the state board syllabus, but CBSE. As an illiterate man, he is unable to quite understand what it means, but he understands that his son’s chances are limited as he studying in a government school. Buchi believes if his son gets admitted to Sapphire International, he will get to shine among the best.
He collects the money for admission — not by honest means though, only to realise money is not the only hurdle. Despite being an excellent student, Bulbul is subjected to scrutiny based on the class of his parents, the area where he lives in and much more. After he overcomes all the hurdles, and a compassionate principal makes it possible for the admission to actually materialise, Buchi’s son Bulbul has his own share of struggles. One fine morning, Bulbul is even made to get down from his own dad’s rickshaw and walk to school because the father of a child (who also goes on the same rickshaw) cannot bear to see him seated beside his own son. In school, Bulbul is shamed for being the son of a rickshaw puller, for not being able to speak fluent English and the likes. Even a teacher ridicules him for not knowing English.
The first class Bulbul attends is of English. As the teacher recites Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Rhyme of Ancient Mariner, students are asked to repeat, ‘Water water everywhere not a drop to drink’. Indeed a telling remark on Bulbul’s situation.
With time and Bulbul’s brilliance, he seems to have overcome the class barrier and his peers cajole him to give them physics, mathematics and chemistry tuitions in return for english coaching. However, Buchi is struggling with unending financial demands of a private school.
It is also after this point that the film feels overstretched and slow. The sequences involving Buchi’s efforts for getting the money and Bulbul’s brilliance seem repetitive after a point. However, the entry of Sanjay Suri’s character gives the story a new dimension. We also see him tread lines similar to what we saw Amitabh Bachchan doing in Prakash Jha’s 2011 film Aarakshan.
Prakash Jha with Sanjay Suri and Priyanka Bose on sets of Pareeksha.
The film takes a morally high ground towards the end, punishing Buchi for his crime, yet not letting Bulbul be affected by it.
Performance wise, every actor has done a brilliant job. Sanjay, Priyanka, Shubham and Adil – all of them make their way into your heart as they slip into their characters perfectly. After a point, you can only see their characters on screen, not the celebs. In fact even the supporting cast – all of them are actors who work in theatre in Ranchi– is perfect fit with their accent and body language.
However, Pareeksha falls short of being a brilliant piece of cinema – first of all, it does not offer any fresh take – neither the narrative style nor the story of struggles of a brilliant but underprivileged child. Though, one must admit that all of what is shown in the film is very real. The film could have been tightly edited, especially the second half, to make it more crisp.
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