The Hindi film 12th Fail is a sleeper hit and is arriving on Disney+ this week. This story of the educational struggles of a civil services officer is a Vidhu Vinod Chopra movie. 

The maverick director is a true veteran and has been around the mid-70s. Yes, it is a career that’s close to five decades long. In recent times, he has slowed down as a director and instead focused his energies on film production. The Raju Hirani movies, excluding the recently released Dunki, are a genre in themselves and part of Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s vision.

In this article, we have listed out his major directorial ventures, which can be seen as companion pieces to 12th Fail.

His first directorial was the 1981 movie Sazaye Maut, which itself was a take-off on his diploma film at FTII, Murder at Monkey Hill (1976). The full-length movie is not available on any of the mainstream streaming services.

Best Vidhu Vinod Chopra movies you should not miss

Khamosh (1985)

Early in his career, Vidhu Vinod Chopra showed he had the nous to do a thriller- a genre requiring skill and craft. This suspense story is set on an island where a film crew goes for a shoot. Like in an Agatha Christie story, crew members get killed one after the other, and the needle of suspicion oscillates wildly. 

The film had Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Amol Palekar, Soni Razdan and Pankaj Kapoor — all big names of the so-called parallel cinema then. Interestingly, Palekar, Razdan and Azmi played their real selves on screen.

Parinda (1989)

This was the film that somewhat announced the arrival of Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Parinda is a mainstream movie and among the earliest gangster films that ushered in the sense of grittiness.

The story is about two brothers who are sucked into the underbelly of Mumbai crime scene. One of them works for the don, and the other takes him on.

The film stars Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Madhuri Dikshit and Nana Patekar in memorable roles. The realism of Parinda was the starting point for many such movies of the genre to follow suit. It showed Chopra’s pioneering abilities.

1942: A Love Story (1994)

This period love story is set in the backdrop of the political turmoil surrounding the Quit India movement of 1942. This movie was verily Chopra’s love’s labour.

Chopra captured Manisha Koirala and Anil Kapoor in soft-focus beauty like nobody else had before or after. The songs of Pancham da (R D Burman’s last hurrah) are among the hall of famers. But the film turned out to be a box-office dud. Even in failure, Chopra showed glory. It is the essence of the man.

Kareeb (1998)

Kareeb is one of Chopra’s underwhelming projects. He seemed to be still smarting under the failure of 1942: A Love Story, and Kareeb seemed to be a different iteration of the same film. The story and the period are different, but the essential feeling and fervour are the same.

This Bobby deol-Neha starrer met the same fate as Chopra’s previous film. But this beautiful love story had its moments.

Mission Kashmir (2000)

The state and the problems of Kashmir is now a major subject. But Chopra, as always, set the ball rolling here, too.

Mission Kashmir grappled with the Kashmir conflict in ways no other movie had attempted before. A young boy becomes an orphan in a terrorist attack, and a kind-hearted policeman adopts him. Soon enough, the young man ends up being a hapless pawn in the political battle for Kashmir.

The film, which was a big success at the theatres, had biggies like Sanjay Dutt, Hrithik Roshan, Jackie Shroff, Preity Zinta, and Sonali Kulkarni in the cast.

Eklavya: The Royal Guard (2007)

The story of Eklavya is centred around a royal dynasty that is no longer in charge. Featuring Amitabh Bachchan as the central protagonist, alongside Sharmila Tagore, Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan, Jackie Shroff and Boman Irani, this was Chopra’s first, and perhaps only, costume drama.

The film delved into themes of duty, sacrifice, and the clash between tradition and modernity. The film was chosen as India’s official entry to the Oscars in the Best Foreign Film category in 2007. It didn’t get nominated. The film was also a failure at the box office. 

Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s return to direction after seven years had ended in a major disappointment. The film was, though, mounted on a grand scale.

Shikara (2020)

Kashmir is a major muse to Chopra. He went back to it in his return to direction after a gap of 13 years. Shikara is a soaring tribute to the people of Kashmir, as opposed to the rabid call to violence that has been the order of the day in many movies. 

Shikara is a story of love and courage. It makes you believe that love can win the war. Away from the politics and violence, Chopra focuses the narrative on a ‘personal’ experience’, with the loss of home, lives, identity and dignity of a Kashmiri Pandit couple.

The book Our Moon Has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita is the inspiration for the movie.

Balakumar Kuppuswamy
Balakumar Kuppuswamy

An engineer-turned-journalist, K Balakumar’s career began in print publications as a sports writer. That also opened doors for other journalistic avenues like films, music, finance, technology and politics, which nobody can escape in India. After 30 yrs in mainstream journalism, now a freelancer for various digital publications.

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