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Vidhu Vinod Chopra: Decided to make 12th Fail instead of Munna Bhai 3

Updated on: 28 October,2023 07:08 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Mohar Basu |

Vidhu Vinod Chopra on how he followed his heart and made 12th Fail over four years, forgoing an assured BO hit and a $10-million cheque

Vidhu Vinod Chopra: Decided to make 12th Fail instead of Munna Bhai 3

Vikrant Massey fronts the movie

Vidhu Vinod Chopra spent the past four-and-a-half years making 12th Fail. What kept him going? His resolve to tell a story that is close to his heart. “I didn’t make Munna Bhai 3, and instead decided to make this film, which is yet to be picked up by a streamer. It’s my movie, my money. I believe you don’t have to sell your soul to make a film,” begins Chopra, who has written, directed and produced the Vikrant Massey-starrer.

Right at the conception stage, Chopra’s drive was to tell the story of those in the crowd who don’t have opportunities handed to them on a platter, those who fight the odds and make it on merit. “A line in the film goes, ‘Agar ek bhi bhed bakri ki jeet hoti hai, laakhon ki jeet hoti hai.’ It’s the story of every common man. It’s my own story in some ways. I came to Mumbai at 15 with no money. I developed anxiety neurosis when I first came here. My father told me that I would die hungry in the big city, but he instilled in me values that didn’t let me go astray.” 

Almost 56 years later, the maker of iconic movies like Parinda (1989), 1942: A Love Story (1994) and 3 Idiots (2009) still lives by those values. “There have been such temptations. A few years ago, before this film, a studio head offered me $10 million to make a series. But my heart wasn’t in it. I have a life chart—I was born in 1952, I have only a decade or so left. If I have done fine for so long, do I need to be corrupt now?”

It is this trait of honesty that he wants to highlight with 12th Fail. The film is based on Anurag Pathak’s book of the same name, which is based on the real-life story of IPS officer Manoj Kumar Sharma. Through the cop’s life story, Chopra wants to show there is hope in the world as long as there is integrity.

The director states, “There are a handful of honest people in the world, and this world is running because of them. The goodness in the world needs to be represented more. When I was an FTII [Film and Television Institute of India] graduate and had little money, I found farishtas who helped me out. The then I&B minister knew I was poor, so he put me on the Governing Council of film bodies. I used to get Rs 880 as airfare, and my then-wife Renu [Saluja] and I used to live on that money all month. I’d insist they put me on more committees, so that I could make more money. Once, a secretary told me, ‘Kya Vinod, paanch saal corrupt banke thode paise kama le.’ But I told him that if you turn corrupt even once in life, then it’s forever.”

When you make such a personal story, it is crucial to find an actor who embodies the film’s spirit. To Chopra, Massey represented the integrity he was looking for. Recounting their first meeting, the filmmaker says, “When I asked him how he would play the 19-year-old, he sat on the ground in a child’s pose and started writing. We rehearsed together as a team for one year, and then shot for another year. This story is so important to me and Vikrant understood that.”

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