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Home Entertainment Vidhu Vinod Chopra Talks Bollywood Sleeper Hit ’12th Fail,’ Plans China Release: ‘In Every Market Where There Is Struggle, the Film Will Do Well’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Vidhu Vinod Chopra Talks Bollywood Sleeper Hit ’12th Fail,’ Plans China Release: ‘In Every Market Where There Is Struggle, the Film Will Do Well’ (EXCLUSIVE)

by moneylab

For veteran Bollywood filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, his latest film “12th Fail” is the gift that keeps on giving.

Based on the 2019 book of the same name by Anurag Pathak, the film tells the true story of Manoj Kumar Sharma who conquered extreme familial poverty to pass one of the world’s toughest examination processes and become an Indian Police Service officer.

Distributed by Zee Studios, the modestly budgeted “12th Fail” released theatrically in October 2023 in a Bollywood market where only big-budget action spectacles were working and many smaller films were taking the easier route to bowing directly on a streamer. The lead cast of Vikrant Massey (Disney+ Series “Criminal Justice”) and Medha Shankr (Busan selection “Max, Min and Meowzaki”), while extremely competent, were not marquee names.


The film struck a chord with audiences and has grossed $8.5 million to date, more than three times its budget. “Each film has its own God, and it’s always a mystery what that God does for that movie. So it’ll always remain a mystery to me as to why it did as well as it did,” Chopra told Variety. “For me, all I can say is perhaps because it’s an honest film, made with honesty and it propagates honesty… and in today’s world, honesty is really in short, short supply. So, perhaps because of that, it connected with so many people, but frankly I don’t have an answer for it. It’ll always remain a mystery.”

“12th Fail” also gave Bollywood filmmakers hope that smaller films with a focus on story rather than spectacle could work at the box office, something that was mostly limited to films hailing from the south of India. The film bowed on streamer Disney+ Hotstar in India and worldwide excluding India on Netflix in late December 2023 and on Sony’s Indian television channels in February 2024. In January 2024, it won best film, director, screenplay and editing at India’s Filmfare Awards, with Massey winning the critics’ award for best actor.

“What happens in movies if one guy has one big hit, suddenly he becomes a star. And then, in the movie business, we get into a blind following where everybody then just goes for that star. It’s the same thing with a movie. When a film like ours does as well as it’s done – I mean it’s going to head for a silver jubilee, which is 25 weeks in cinemas despite being on Disney+ Hotstar, Netflix and on Sony Television. That’s incredible. So, I’m sure a lot of other people will feel that if you tell an honest story, that story can go a long way. I’m sure more doors will open and more such films will be made in future, which is such a joy. It’s nice to know that ’12th Fail’ is spreading hope,” Chopra said.


A directing graduate of the Film and Television Institute of India, Chopra won acclaim for his student short “Murder at Monkey Hill” (1976). His next short, “An Encounter With Faces” (1976), was Oscar nominated in the documentary short subject category. He adapted “Murder at Monkey Hill” as his feature debut “Sazaye Maut” (1981). Highlights of his directorial career include “Khamosh” (1985), “Parinda” (1989), “1942: A Love Story” (1994) and “Mission Kashmir” (2000).

Chopra is also an enormously successful producer with credits including “Munna Bhai MBBS” (2003), “Parineeta” (2005), “Lage Raho Munna Bhai” (2006) and “Sanju” (2018). His “3 Idiots” (2009) and “PK” (2014), in addition to being blockbusters in India, were hits in China as well.

Plans are afoot to release “12th Fail” in China. In January, the film played at the first edition of Festival of Young Cinema (Asia-Europe) in Macau, spearheaded by veteran film festival curator and director Marco Mueller.

“We are releasing in China in a big way this year,” Chopra said. “I was invited to Macau by Marco Mueller for the Asia-Europe Young Cinema film festival. We had a standing ovation in China. And for me that was very gratifying. There were Hindi dialogues, and I of course couldn’t read the subtitles in Chinese. But the way people were clapping, the audience’s reaction was incredible. I have no doubt that this film will do very well. Not only in China, but in every market where there is struggle… where, like in the movie, there is a big government job that you can get through exams and then that changes your life. Where that one exam changes your life forever. Wherever that is… of course in China, in Korea… wherever that is, the film will do very well, because the people will relate to the struggle of the protagonist.” The China distributor has not been revealed yet.

Chopra is currently working on three projects. “I’m just going to make movies all my life till I’m alive, and hopefully those movies will find their place everywhere, in cinema halls, on streaming platforms, wherever. I’m not interested in the business of cinema. I’ve never been,” Chopra said. “It’s a contradiction because I’ve made some of the biggest hits in India, but for me cinema is such fun. And I’m not highly educated, I wasn’t fortunate enough to go to Stanford, like my daughter. So I just want to keep making movies till I can. I’m 71. I’m hoping to continue making movies till I’m 100 years old. My inspiration in that is of course Clint Eastwood. But that’s all I want to do. Make movies.”

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